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Morning Star must release files

The Washington Supreme Court has declined to review a lower court’s decision that Morning Star Boys’ Ranch must release more than 1,000 personal files to attorneys for seven men who say they were sexually abused at the ranch.

“The arguments that Morning Star does make do not provide a persuasive basis for granting review,” the court said in a decision released late Wednesday.

In May, Judge Harold Clarke ordered the ranch to release the records. Morning Star appealed to the Supreme Court, calling the request for documents “overly broad and unduly oppressive, as it would require examination of every personnel file maintained” by the boys home. The ranch said the documents contain medical and social histories of the boys in its care.

On Thursday, a Morning Star press release said the ranch had acted to protect the privacy and confidentiality of residents and their files.

“We appealed Judge Clarke’s decision because we felt it necessary to go to great lengths to protect the privacy and confidentiality of all our residents,” said Dan Kuhlmann, Morning Star’s acting director. “As of today’s decision, the Ranch will begin to turn over the requested files.”

A 2006 protective order will ensure that information in the files is not released to the public – just to attorneys.

The personal files contain thousands of pages of documents regarding men who once lived at the Catholic boys home, which opened in 1956. The ranch has worked with 1,300 boys in the past 50 years.

In court filings, the attorneys for the men allege that Morning Star officials concealed accounts of abuse at the ranch south of Spokane and failed to report allegations to state officials tasked with its oversight.

“This is a huge legal victory for the plaintiffs,” said Tim Kosnoff, a Seattle-based plaintiffs’ attorney, in an e-mail. Kosnoff also represents several plaintiffs in a separate case against the ranch.

Officials and attorneys for the boys home have strenuously defended the ranch’s conduct.

Morning Star said it is “confident in the judicial process and looks forward to the resolution of these trials soon.”