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Bush v. Catholic Diocese of Peoria

August 26, 2004

EDWARD E. BUSH, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF PEORIA, THE MOST REVEREND BISHOP DANIEL R. JENKY, AND MONSIGNOR STEVEN P. ROLPHS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit Peoria County, Illinois No. 02-L-325. Honorable Scott A. Shore, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Lytton

PUBLISHED

MODIFIED UPON DENIAL OF PETITION FOR REHEARING

Plaintiff, Edward Bush, filed a defamation suit against defendants, the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, Bishop Daniel Jenky, and Monsignor Steven Rolphs, claiming that defendants falsely and publicly accused plaintiff of sexually assaulting two young girls in the early 1960's. The trial court entered a protective order prohibiting the parties from revealing the alleged victims' names or other identifying information to the general public or the media. We find the order constitutional and drafted narrowly enough to protect the alleged victims and also to permit both parties to engage in full pretrial investigation and discovery.

On May 30, 2002, the Catholic Diocese issued a press release stating that the Diocese had asked certain priests to step down from the public ministry based on recent allegations of sexual misconduct against them. The release went on to list plaintiff as one of the defrocked priests: "Edward Bush, 70, former pastor of St. Patrick, Colona."

Plaintiff filed a multi-count complaint against defendants alleging defamation per se and per quod, false light, public disclosure of private facts, and breach of contract. Defendants moved for a protective order to keep the identities of the alleged sexual abuse victims confidential. The trial court entered a protective order on May 14, 2003, which stated:

Statements of victims or alleged victims produced in this case should not be reproduced in full, in part, or in summary form, and information contained therein shall not be re-disclosed, outside of the attorneys, their staff, their client, their investigators, or the author of such information or others directly involved in trial preparation, without prior leave of the court.

Discovery continued, and plaintiff moved to vacate the protective order. That motion was denied, but the court did order defendants to provide the names and addresses of the alleged sexual abuse victims, as well as the names and addresses of witnesses and persons claiming to be witnesses to sexual abuse by plaintiff. In response, defendants filed a motion for an emergency order for protection on September 16, 2003, to extend the original order to cover any information which identified the alleged victim and witnesses. The circuit court allowed the motion and amended the order of protection. The court reaffirmed the May 14 order and added the following:

However, notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (1) above, the parties shall be permitted to conduct discovery and investigation of the claims and defenses, and shall be permitted to interview witnesses or persons believed to have relevant knowledge and/or information regarding the alleged victims, as well as conduct depositions of such witnesses or persons.

Plaintiff filed this interlocutory appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 307(a)(1). Ill. Sup. Ct. R 307(a)(1).

The trial court's decision to issue a protective order will not be overturned absent an abuse of discretion. Amoco Oil Co. v. Segall, 118 Ill. App. 3d 1002 (1983).

I. Standing

Plaintiff argues that by obtaining the protective order, defendants were protecting the rights of the alleged victims and not their own, and thus, defendants lack standing to ask for the order because their interests are not implicated nor could they suffer injury from disclosure of the information. We disagree.

Subsection (c)(1) of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 201 permits the court to issue a protective order as justice requires. Ill. Sup. Ct. R 201(c)(1). Specifically, the rule provides, "[t]he court may at any time on its own initiative, or on motion of any party or witness, make a protective order as justice requires, denying, limiting, conditioning, or regulating discovery to prevent ...


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