Brief Supporting Motion to Compel
This Brief, in part, supports the motion to compel the depositions of three key members of the Jehovah’s Witness Headquarters staff, Gary Breaux, Allen Shuster, and Gene Smalley.
“WTNY has withheld from production substantial evidence bearing on Plaintiffs’ claims, including many documents referencing the child sex abuse that occurred in Hardin, MT at issue in this case. Plaintiffs’ attempts to understand the foundation of WTNY’s privilege log have not yielded meaningful information, and it remains unclear if the claims of privilege are entirely sound. For instance, while the privilege log makes blanket assertions that many of the documents are related to “seeking spiritual guidance,” WTNY will not tell Plaintiffs what type of spiritual guidance is being discussed. WTNY’s lack of candor has made it impossible for Plaintiffs to assess whether the documents are genuinely protected from disclosure by the clergy-penitent privilege, or are actually secular in nature and should be produced.”
“WTNY is essentially asserting that any and all correspondence about child sex abuse between a local congregation and the Jehovah’s Witness Organization’s (the “Organization”) headquarters in New York is protected from disclosure by various testimonial privileges. Yet, in truth, this correspondence is likely the result of an effort by the Organization to get a handle on the scope of its child sexual abuse problem. This is the same rational – and purely secular – step that any entity facing serious and growing child sex abuse accusations would undertake…”
“Elder Gary Breaux is the “overseer” of the Organization’s Service Department and has served at the New York headquarters during times material to Plaintiffs’ claims. Among other things, Mr. Breaux’s Service Department is responsible for corresponding with local congregations about allegations of child sex abuse. Mr. Breaux has previously testified as the designee with the most knowledge of the Jehovah’s Witness Organization’s policies pertaining to the handling and reporting of child sex abuse allegations going back to 1970. Mr. Breaux’s knowledge of how the Organization has handled accusations of child sex abuse going back to 1970 certainly makes him a witness with knowledge pertaining to many aspects of Plaintiffs’ case and Plaintiffs are entitled to depose him. However, WTNY refuses to produce him.”