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Documents Exempt from Viewing under Public Records Act Allowed with Confidentiality Agreement

Because of an underlying civil action brought in Massachusetts against the Bright Horizons Children's Center, Inc. (the Center), alleging sexual abuse of a minor child, the Center sought records of the completed investigation from the district attorney (DA) by subpoena duces tecum.
The DA filed a motion to quash the subpoena and another for a protective order. The court denied both motions and stipulated that a confidentiality agreement be implemented prior to the document's disclosure.

The Center requested any transcripts, taped interviews, reports or copies relating to the alleged abuse. The AG argued that the records were protected by an absolute privilege as set forth in Worthington v. Scribner, 109 Mass. 487, 488 (1872).

The court ruled that Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 66, section 970 of the Public Records Act must be viewed in combination with Ch. 265, section 24C, which states that "the portion of the records of a court or any police department of the commonwealth ... which contains the name of the victim ... shall be withheld from public inspection, except with the consent of a justice of such court where the complaint or indictment is or would be prosecuted."

The court determined that the alleged assailant was in favor of disclosure, and that the request was accompanied by an offer of confidentiality. It further held that the 1973 legislature enacted Public Records Act subsumed the common law privilege asserted by the DA. The court denied the DA's motion to quash the subpoena, and ordered the requested material to be disclosed conditioned upon a confidentiality stipulation. See: Doe v. Bright Horizons Children's Center, Inc., 8 Mass.L.Rptr. 616 (Mass. Super. 1998); 1998 WL 408965.

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Related legal case

Doe v. Bright Horizons Children's Center, Inc.