LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Boy Scouts of America must release two decades of files detailing sexual abuse allegations after the California Supreme Court refused the organization's bid to keep the records confidential.
The decision came after a Santa Barbara County court ruled last year that the files must be turned over to attorneys representing a former Scout who claims a leader molested him in 2007, when he was 13. That leader later was convicted of felony child endangerment.
The former Scout's lawsuit claims the files, which date to 1991 and involve allegations from across the nation, will expose a "culture of hidden sexual abuse" that the Scouts had concealed.
The Boys Scouts of America has denied the allegations and argued that the files should remain confidential to protect the privacy of child victims and of people who were wrongly accused.
"The BSA will comply fully with the order, but maintains that the files are not relevant to this suit" and won't be made public unless used as evidence in the case, spokesman Deron Smith told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/WqDUkK) .
It's not clear how soon the files will become public. The documents are covered by a judge's protective order and can't be revealed until they become part of the open court record in the former Scout's lawsuit.
"Our hands are tied, and we are forbidden to publicize the files," Timothy Hale, an attorney for the former Scout, said in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday.
A pretrial conference is scheduled next week in Santa Barbara. Hale said lawyers for the two sides likely will discuss how long the Boy Scouts need to turn over the files and then how much review time he and his colleagues will need before the case can go to trial.
Hale surmised it could be fall or later before that happens. He urged the Scouts to turn over the files to law enforcement and publicly identify people accused of abuse.
The Boy Scouts kept internal files on alleged sexual abuse for nearly a century. Through other court cases, the Scouts were forced to reveal files dating from 1960 to 1991.
They detailed numerous cases where abuse claims were made and Boy Scout officials never alerted authorities and sometimes actively sought to protect the accused.
The organization has improved youth protection policies in recent years. It has conducted criminal background checks on volunteers since 2008 and in 2010 mandated any suspected abuse be reported to police.