April 15, 2011
A county judge affirmed the rights of the alleged victim, John RJ Doe, in a sexual abuse case against Father Edward Fitz-Henry to remain anonymous, allowing the case to proceed. "The United States Supreme Court has implicitly endorsed the use of pseudonyms to protect plaintiffs' privacy," said Judge Kay Kingsley in her decision on Friday.
Attorneys representing Fitz-Henry tried to force the plaintiff to reveal his identity on the grounds that a defense against an anonymous accuser is "impossible," according to documents filed with the court.
"Before he should be able to proceed with a lawsuit, there needs to be something other than him and him alone, without any foundation or evidence, to back up [the allegations]," says Christine Breen, an attorney with the De Vries Law Group based in San Juan Bautista, noting that there have been no criminal charges filed. A criminal investigation into the allegations is ongoing.
The attorney representing John Doe, Vince Finaldi of the Newport Beach firm Manly & Stewart, asked Kingsley to protect his client's anonymity for personal protection and privacy. "It's very, very dangerous for him, and he's very scared," Finaldi said at the hearing.
"One of the motives of the defendants was to get him to crawl back into the bushes and relinquish his claims," Finaldi says. "Sexual abuse can carry with it a tremendous amount of shame and embarrassment."
Kingsley and Finaldi agreed that as the case develops, John Doe will eventually need to reveal his identity for the defense to proceed, but "at this time, the nature of the allegations provides enough information for the [pseudonym]," Kingsley said.
Although Breen says Fitz-Henry does not know the alleged victim's identity, "We have some information to indicate who he might be.
"Our client absolutely denies the allegations in their entirety. His position is, he's absolutely never abused anyone."
In an internal investigation ordered by the Diocese of Monterey, a church-appointed board determined Fitz-Henry had engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor some 20 years ago.