The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday approved the release of 20,000 confidential Boy Scouts of America documents to the public, reports the Associated Press. The documents list scout leaders who were suspected child molesters.
Though Oregon’s ruling isn’t binding in other states it could make it easier for confidential Boy Scouts documents to be used in pending and future lawsuits in which former scout members claim they were abused. Currently, Boy Scouts files are being sought in 40 cases nationwide.
The Oregon files were first gathered from 1965 to 1985, when they were used as evidence in a lawsuit in 2010. The jury awarded $18.5 million to Kerry Lewis, a victim of sexual abuse by an assistant scoutmaster in the early 1980s, since it was proven that the organization failed to protect him.
“These files were integral to the jury finding that the BSA failed to use its vast knowledge of sexual predators to protect its Scouts,” said Paul Mones, one of the plaintiff attorneys on Kerry Lewis’s case. “Though the BSA has improved its youth-protection policies in recent years, the tragic legacy of the abuse of untold numbers of boys remains.”
Although Boy Scouts of America fought to keep the files sealed in the Oregon case, a judge ruled that they became public record when they were used at trial. This prompted the organization to appeal to the state’s highest court.