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Minn. appeals court rejects effort to prevent archbishop’s deposition

By Emily Gurnon

St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Court of Appeals has rejected an attempt by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to prevent the deposition of Archbishop John Nienstedt and a former top deputy.

The court refused to consider an appeal by the archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona that sought to halt discovery in the case of John Doe 1, a man who alleged sexual abuse by former priest Thomas Adamson, according to an order filed Wednesday by Chief Judge Edward J. Cleary.

The appeals court also dismissed related appeals filed by the archdiocese and diocese.

Ramsey County District Judge John Van de North had ruled in the case that the church agencies must turn over names of priests accused of sexual abuse of minors since 2004. Van de North also ordered that the depositions of Nienstedt and former Vicar General Kevin McDonough should go forward.

But church officials balked at those orders, saying among other things that Van de North may have exceeded his authority.

The archdiocese and diocese asked the Court of Appeals on Feb. 18 to undo Van de North’s orders on the depositions and the release of more priests’ names.

Plaintiff’s attorney Jeff Anderson said they were pleased with Wednesday’s rulings.

“Our reading of this (order) and the language in it is that they have ruled that we are able to move forward with discovery ... that the trial court was right,” Anderson said.

The deposition of Nienstedt is now scheduled for April 2; that of McDonough is set for April 16, Anderson said. The location has not yet been determined.

The archdiocese last month turned over to the court a list of priests accused of sexually abusing minors since 2004. It was submitted under seal. The plaintiff’s attorneys can petition for those to be made public for “good cause” — and Anderson has said this is his goal.

Church officials have argued that some of those priests might be innocent.

A spokesman for the archdiocese said it would respond later Wednesday to a request for comment.

Van de North also ordered the release of names of priests “credibly accused” of child sexual abuse known to them prior to 2004; those were disclosed publicly in December.

Thomas Adamson is a former priest who has been sued more than a dozen times for allegedly sexually abusing children. Doe 1 is a Twin Cities man who sued in May, saying Adamson molested him in 1976 or 1977 when the priest served at St. Thomas Aquinas in St. Paul Park. The plaintiff also alleged that the archdiocese and diocese failed to respond — moving Adamson from parish to parish amid the allegations.

Anderson also wants to take the deposition of the Rev. John Brown, a 93-year-old priest living in Maplewood. Brown has been accused of sexual abuse by a different plaintiff.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.