Tech firms support Boy Scout case

2011-01-11 16:21

Portland - The country's leading technology trade association, which represents major multinationals including IBM, Boeing Co and Microsoft Corp, has written a brief in support of the Boy Scouts of America in a lawsuit that seeks to make public the organisation's so-called "perversion files".

The files, variously called the perversion or ineligible volunteer files, keep track of suspected paedophiles and others who violate the Boy Scouts of America's rules in an effort to keep them from volunteering again.

A Multnomah County Circuit Court judge ruled that 20 years worth of the Boy Scouts' ineligible volunteer files, from 1965 to 1985, could be used in court, and in June ruled that they should be opened to the public.

The Boy Scouts of America appealed, and the case is before the Oregon Supreme Court.

The circuit court released 1 247 files, of which more than 1 000 involve allegations of child abuse. The only other time the documents are believed to have been presented at a trial was in the 1980s in Virginia.

Trade secrets

News organisations, including The Associated Press, have asked for unedited versions of all the files. Arguments are scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

In the brief, TechAmerica argues that opening the files would mean there is no judicial protection of trade secrets.

"The trial court's interpretation of (the Oregon Constitution) is so broad that it would preclude any protection of trade secrets at evidentiary hearings or trials," wrote TechAmerica attorney Lori I Bauman.

The plaintiffs argue the records should be considered public.

"For the BSA to argue that evidence received in open court during a public trial should remain secret is simply absurd and underscores the Scouts' desperation," said Kelly Clark, an attorney for the plaintiffs, in a press release.

TechAmerica spokesperson Charlie Greenwald said in an e-mail that the association is only interested in the breadth of the rule, and said the association "speaks on behalf of the technology industry at large".

"As with any position or filing, this one was promulgated according to standard association procedures for developing and acting upon a consensus position among our membership," he said.

Damages

Greenwald refused to clarify what the standard procedures were, and whether any members were given an option to opt-out of the filing.

Microsoft, through a public relations firm, confirmed it is a member of TechAmerica but declined to comment on the brief.

Other TechAmerica members contacted by The Associated Press, including General Electric Co's aviation unit, Qwest Communications International Inc, IBM, Texas Instruments Inc and Boeing Co, either declined to comment or did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.

The case began when six men, all identified as Jack Doe, sued the Boy Scouts.

One of them, who was molested in the 1980s by an assistant Scoutmaster, separated his suit and won $1.4m in damages and an $18.5m punitive award from the Boy Scouts, the organisation's Cascade Pacific Council and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

The assistant Scoutmaster acknowledged the abuse of the man in a deposition before trial. The groups settled with the five other men. Now, two other men have sued.

- AP

Read more on:    child abuse
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