The judge presiding over the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex-abuse case ruled Friday that the archdiocese has its own attorney-client privilege regarding 12 communications between outside counsel hired by the archdiocese and the former secretary for clergy charged with endangering the welfare of children allegedly abused by priests he supervised.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said during the last pretrial hearing before the trial slated to open today that she does not see how defendant Monsignor William J. Lynn's attorneys can establish that he sought the counsel of C. Clark Hodgson Jr. and John P. O'Dea of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young personally and separately from the interests of the archdiocese.
The advice was given so he could carry out the functions of the entity, Sarmina said.
One of Lynn's responsibilities as secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004 was to address reports of sexual abuse and where priests accused of such abuse would be assigned.
Even as the judge cast doubt on the likelihood of Lynn prevailing on his attempt to overcome the archdiocese's attorney-client privilege, the judge granted a defense request that she conduct an in camera review of the documents to determine if she thinks the documents might be exculpatory for Lynn and then decide if there is any way Lynn can trump the archdiocese's privilege.
Lynn's lawyers also are arguing that their client's Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel would be violated if the archdiocese is able to assert an independent attorney-client privilege.
One of the archdiocese's attorneys, Robert E. Welsh Jr. of Welsh & Recker, handed up the 12 documents to the judge at 10:52 a.m. Friday.
The archdiocese has filed a motion to quash the subpoena of Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for clergy, for 12 communications Lynn had between 1993 and 1999 with attorneys at Stradley Ronon, the longtime outside counsel for the archdiocese.
Lynn's attorney, Thomas A. Bergstrom of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, said that prosecutors are going to argue that Lynn had a duty to investigate reports of other alleged sex-abuse victims made by individuals who said they were abused by priests.
The question is whether he had a duty under the law or under the archdiocesan policy to go out and conduct interviews with these alleged additional victims, Bergstrom said.