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PA Supreme Court: Temporary Redaction of Names of Accused Priests Becomes Permanent to Protect Constitutional Right to Reputation for Lack of a Better Remedy

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | December 5, 2018

No. 1,591

IN RE: FORTIETH STATEWIDE INVESTIGATING GRAND JURY, NO. 75, 77-82, 84, 86-87, 89 WM 2018 (December 3, 2018) 

On July 27, 2018, the Supreme Court temporarily redacted the names of eleven current and former Catholic priests who had been named in the Report of the Fortieth Investigating Grand Jury (Report 1).  The prior opinion is reported at 190 A.3d 560 (Pa. 2018). These priests, who had been specifically named as sexual predators in Report 1, sought to secure their constitutionally guaranteed right to reputation under Pa. Const. Article 1 § 1.

The Supreme Court temporarily redacted the names from Report 1 in order to receive briefs and arguments supporting and opposing the petitions filed by the eleven priests.  The majority concluded that under the limited statutory authority granted under the Investigating Grand Jury Act, 42 Pa. C. S. § 4541 et seq., there was no procedural remedy available to provide due process to the accused priests and therefore, in order to preserve the constitutional protection of reputation, the temporary redactions in the report are required to remain permanent.

The Court examined and rejected  several proposals for further proceedings intended to provide due process rights to the accused.  In each case, the Court observed that the statutory authority was too limited to encompass due process hearings and in any event the authorized twenty four month duration of the Grand Jury had expired.

“Our careful review of the Act reveals that it contains no allowance for this grand jury to be reassembled, to hear additional testimony, to receive supplementary evidence, or to issue a supplemental report. Moreover, as discussed, the investigating grand jury is a distinctly statutory creation. We are unaware of any authority, nor has the Commonwealth identified any, which would allow this Court to craft a judicial remedy that re-impanels the grand jury, requires it to take additional evidence, and to author a second supplemental report, contrary to the express legislative design of the Act.”



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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