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Spotlight Report

Judge blasts transcript release

By Michael Rezendes, Globe Staff, 5/17/2002

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney yesterday expressed grave concern over the publication of last Wednesday's pretrial testimony by Cardinal Bernard F. Law in a clergy sexual abuse lawsuit, and sharply admonished the attorney who took responsibility for the release of Law's deposition.

''You really did blow the rule,'' Sweeney said to attorney William H. Gordon, referring to a procedural rule that gives witnesses 30 days to review a deposition transcript and make corrections. ''You blew the rule sky high here and you blew it to the detriment of the defendants.''

Law's deposition May 8 was taken by Gordon and attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who are representing 86 people who have sued Law and other church officials saying they were sexually molested by former priest John J. Geoghan. Geoghan has been convicted of molestation.

The Globe and other news organizations posted transcripts of Law's deposition on Web sites and printed excerpts in newspapers after purchasing the material from a court stenographer.

Yesterday, Sweeney asked stenographer Loretta Hennessey to explain why she sent copies of Law's testimony to news organizations in apparent violation of rule 30. Hennessey said she did so after consulting with Gordon. Gordon said he had misunderstood Sweeney's ruling of last year that lifted a protective order on records in the Geoghan case, and apologized.

Sweeney said she believed it was essential to air her concerns in order to maintain fairness. She said an error seemingly as insignificant as a misplaced comma could alter the meaning of a transcript.

J. Owen Todd, one of Law's attorneys, applauded Sweeney's action. ''It clarified the way the case should be handled procedurally,'' Todd said. ''It shouldn't be handled in the press.''

This story ran on page A26 of the Boston Globe on 5/17/2002.
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