The law firm of Nix Patterson Roach LLP reported on their website that a judge in charge of one of their court cases has ordered Jehovah’s Witnesses to produce and turn over withheld internal documents relating to childhood sexual abuse.
The following is the announcement as reported on the legal firm’s website [LINK] published on April 12:
On April 5, 2018, Judge James Manley of Sanders County, Montana ordered the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization to produce documents and testimony related to internal reports and investigations into the childhood sexual abuse of NPR’s two clients.
In this case, the two Plaintiffs were sexually abused as children by a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Elders in the local Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Thompson Falls, Montana were aware of the abuse and failed to report it to the police, choosing instead to handle the reports and investigations internally pursuant to Jehovah’s Witness guidelines. Their decision not to report the abuse to authorities allowed the perpetrator to remain in the congregation and continue to abuse one of the Plaintiffs.
Throughout this case, and similar childhood sexual abuse cases across the country, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have refused to produce documents related to their internal handling of reports of sexual abuse and related investigations and disciplinary actions claiming that the information is protected by the clergy-penitent privilege and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Through briefing to the court, NPR convinced the Judge that Defendants’ privilege claims were unsupported and improper under the law. The Court agreed that Defendants could not blanket everything related to their investigations in secrecy and that they must turn it over to the Plaintiffs. Often, this is the very evidence that can win or lose a case like this against a religious institution.
The case of Nunez, et al. v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, et al. is set to go to trial in September of 2018.
The plaintiffs in this case are represented by NPR partner D. Neil Smith and associate Ross E. Leonoudakis.
This legal case is just another of a growing number of successful filings on behalf of victims of child abuse and other crimes against children of Jehovah’s Witness families throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain and western Europe. The number of filed cases is just a small portion of the total incidents of child abuse within Jehovah’s Witness congregations and families. That is the “bad news.”
The “good news” is that more of these reported cases are making their way to courts than in the past. Thankfully there are more law firms prepared to handle these cases. There are also more judges who are willing to take action and rule against the Watchtower. Local elders and other responsible leaders at all levels within the organization are now having to answer for the damage they have allowed to be inflicted upon Jehovah’s Witness youth. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of these abuse cases ever make it to court.
Thanks to NPR LLP two more Jehovah’s Witness abuse victims may have their day in court.