Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Sarah Stewart ruled on Friday that information given to the Baldwin County District Attorney’s office about alleged sexual misconduct involving one of the school’s leaders is relevant to a pending lawsuit over alleged bullying at St. Pius X Catholic School in Mobile.
Last week, Stewart ruled from the stand that allegations the school’s pastor, Fr. Johnny Savoie, was involved in a relationship with a 16-year-old boy around 2005 would be relevant in at least one of the four pending lawsuits against the school. Savoie is now looking toward a second deposition scheduled for March 30, which will be closed to the public and media.
Today’s ruling will require the Baldwin County DA’s office to turn over a report received from the Mobile Archdiocese about the allegations, which first surfaced in late 2013, to attorneys representing the plaintiffs suing St. Pius X. The office has five business days to comply with the order.
“The Court finds such reports are not protected by attorney-client privilege and are not work product,” Stewart said in her ruling. “Moreover, according to the District Attorney’s statement to the press, the reports are not investigative reports or the testimony of a law enforcement officer, and are not privileged in that manner either.”
The allegations against Savoie were first made public after he openly discussed the matter with his congregation in February 2014. However, local media only began reporting on that incident after the Archdiocese attempted to block several subpoenas for law enforcement officials about how it responded to the allegations. Under its own child protection policies, the Archdiocese is required to report any allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse to law enforcement.Baldwin County District Attorney Hallie Dixon was specifically subpoenaed for testimony in early March after it was revealed her office had received the initial allegations against Savoie. However, Dixon did not show up for her March 6 deposition, and attorneys for the plaintiffs — David Kennedy and Christine Hernandez — subsequently motioned she be held in contempt of court.
Today, Stewart also denied the motion for contempt, but did verbally condemn Dixon for not notifying the attorneys who were waiting with a paid court reporter at the originally scheduled time of the deposition.
“The Court will not hold the Baldwin County District Attorney in contempt, although her actions were highly discourteous in not notifying plaintiffs counsel that she would not attend the deposition until 15 minutes before the deposition was to start,” Stewart wrote. “The Court trusts that future conduct of this nature will not occur.”
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