Attorney General Ellison files amicus brief in support of public release of Boy Scouts’ ‘Perversion Files,’ with safeguards for accused
Because “substantial public interest in disclosure … must be balanced against fairness and privacy concerns,” recommends appointment of Special Master to review each file
September 6, 2019 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in Ramsey County District Court in support the public release of the so-called “Perversion Files” maintained by the Boy Scouts of America, provided there are appropriate safeguards for the rights of those accused. In the brief, Attorney General Ellison argues both that there is a “substantial public interest in disclosure of information documenting sexual abuse within trusted youth organizations like the Boy Scouts,” and “the public interest in disclosure … must be balanced against fairness and privacy concerns.” To ensure this balance, Attorney General Ellison recommends that the Court appoint a Special Master “to review each file and apply objective criteria to identify credible allegations that are in the public interest to unseal.”
The Perversion Files, so named by the Boy Scouts, contain the names of alleged perpetrators of sexual abuse against Boy Scouts along with other files about the events that led to those accusations. They are part of a broader set of files called Ineligible Volunteer Files that the Boy Scouts have maintained for decades.
“I support releasing these files because the public has a right to know about credible allegations about acts of child sexual abuse,” Attorney General Ellison said. “When credible allegations are disclosed, it also provides survivors with a sense of healing and justice, and encourages more survivors to come forward, all of which are in the public interest. At the same time, the Court can also serve the public interest by ensuring that no baseless or unfounded accusations are released, particularly any that may have been made simply on the basis of the accused’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It is a balance I am confident the Court can strike.”
Among the criteria that Attorney General Ellison recommends the Special Master apply in reviewing each file for possible unsealing are: (1) the nature of the allegation; (2) the outcome of any police investigation or prosecution; (3) the results of any internal investigation; (4) whether the file contains admissions from an accused offender; (5) whether the file contains other information tending to corroborate the allegation; and (6) whether the allegation has circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness.
At the same time, Attorney General Ellison argues in the brief that “[t]here is no public interest in learning the identity of victims or witnesses, so such information should remain sealed.”
In 2012, an Oregon court released reports from the Perversion Files of alleged child sexual abuse by more than 1,200 scout leaders. In the case of John Doe 180 v. The National Boy Scouts of America Foundation, the Boy Scouts produced a separate list of 1,500 scout leaders accused of misconduct against children and the corresponding Perversion Files, but the list and files were sealed by court order when the case was settled in 2014. Plaintiff John Doe 180 is now seeking permission from the Court to unseal the files and release them to the public.
A copy of the brief is available on the website of Minnesota Attorney General Ellison.