PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday approved the release of 20,000 pages of so-called perversion files compiled by the Boy Scouts of America on suspected child molesters within the organization for more than 20 years, giving the public its first chance to review the records.
The files, gathered from 1965 to 1985, came to light when they were used as evidence in a landmark Oregon lawsuit in 2010. A jury awarded a record $18.5 million to a man who was molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the early 1980s, ruling that the Scouts failed to protect him.
The case drew attention to the organization's efforts to keep child molesters out of its leadership ranks. The files contain accusations against Scout leaders ranging from child abuse to lesser offenses that would prohibit them from working in the Scouts.
The organization, headquartered in Irving, Texas, say the files have succeeded in keeping molesters out of the Scouts. The group fought to keep the files sealed in the Oregon case, but a judge ruled that they became public record when they were used at trial, prompting the organization to appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court.
The Scouts argued opening the files could affect those who were suspected but never convicted of abuse. The organization also said that if the information were to go public, it could prejudice potential jurors in future trials.
Media organizations, including the Associated Press, the Oregonian, the New York Times and Oregon Public Broadcasting had challenged the Scouts' effort to keep the files under seal.
The 20,000 pages — representing files on 1,200 people — are part of a larger trove of confidential documents the Boy Scouts began compiling decades ago. The New York Times reported the Scouts had 2,910 "cards" on men who were unfit to supervise boys by 1935.
Scout executives had no written guidelines on the subject until 1972, when a memo urged them to keep such files confidential "because of misunderstandings which could develop if it were widely distributed."
A Multnomah County judge earlier ruled that the names of alleged victims and the people who made the accusations should be kept private. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed.
It was unclear when the files would be made public, since the names will need to be redacted by hand by attorneys from either side and sent for approval.