Open Hearing On Saints’ Email Release Ordered by Judge

Photo courtesy of Erick Engelhardt

State judge Ellen Hazeur has ordered an open hearing for February 20th regarding the email scandal involving Roman Catholic officials and NFL Saints executives. The hearing will decide whether the contents of emails between the Saints and the New Orleans archdiocese are to be made public or not. Hundreds of emails display the team’s involvement in public relations damage control to contain the matters of an ongoing sexual abuse and pedophilia crisis perpetuated by the city’s Roman Catholic church. Around 24 men suing the Catholic church have said that the Saints team has helped the church conceal its “pattern and practice” of crimes, displayed through 276 documents. This hearing on the contents of the emails was previously closed. 

A court-appointed special master has been chosen to preside over the hearing. Special masters are appointed in pre and post-trial situations to make recommendations to the judge about case disposition or to ensure judicial orders are followed. Saints lawyers argued that special master hearings are customarily closed, but judge Hazeur ruled that nothing in her order regarding a special master required a closed hearing. The Saints have gone to court to keep the emails from being shared, arguing that ordinarily they would be kept private in this type of case and that the plaintiffs’ reason for requesting their release is for use as a publicity measure. The Saints argue that the emails under their domain were intended to remain private. The archdiocese is also fighting to prevent the release of the emails. The NFL itself has refused to comment. Policy of the National Football League states that anyone involved in the league must refrain from “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in” the NFL. Lawyers involved in the case have been cautioned that they are not to disclose the contents of the emails in this hearing.

At least 57 clergy members of the New Orleans Roman Catholic archdiocese have been accused of sexual abuse. The Associated Press, became involved in an effort to get the emails released, completed an analysis that showed this list was missing at least 20 names. They have argued that the case involves large public institutions who “collect millions of dollars from local residents who support their activities”, and thus the public has a right to know what has conspired. Lawyers of the not-for-profit news outlet AP will participate in the hearing arguments. Owners of The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate, WVUE-TV, WWL-TV and WDSU-TV filed a motion arguing that the AP should not be the only media outlet allowed at the upcoming hearing. Judge Hazeur agreed with them and proceeded to order the open hearing.

Gayle Benson, the owner of the Saints, is a devout Catholic and close friend of the local archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond. Benson has stated in a news release that the team had no hand in determining the priests named in the list of clergy “credibly accused”, which was published by the archdiocese. The team has disputed the notion of covering up crimes as “outrageous” and claims that the plaintiffs’ attorneys have misstated the contents of the emails.

Nikki Eldred is a contributing writer for Big Easy Magazine. 

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