Sun Co. Seeks Court Order To Open Bel Air Abuse Case

February 03, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

The Baltimore Sun Co. has asked the state Court of Special Appeals to order Harford Circuit Court to act on the Sun's request to open a sealed civil suit filed against owners and workers of the former Bo Peep Day Nursery in Bel Air.

The Baltimore Sun Co., which publishes The Harford County Sun, made the request to the state court last weekafter Harford Circuit Court failed to act on motions to open the Bo Peep suit, which was filed nearly seven months ago.

"Because of the arbitrary and unreasonable action of the Circuit Court . . . the Sun continues to be denied its constitutional and common-law rights of access to papers filed in the civil case," court papers filed Thursday by the Sun state.

The day-care center, locatedin a Victorian house in the 100 block of Hickory Avenue, was shut down by the state in November 1989 following allegations of child sexual abuse.

Four unnamed children and their parents filed a civil suit against Bo Peep's owners and workers on July 12, 1990.

Only partof the first page of the suit and docket entries has been made available to the public.

Mary R. Craig, a Baltimore attorney representing the Sun, said the company is asking the state court to determine whether a circuit judge must respond promptly to a request to open a sealed case.

Craig said the Sun's appeal could create new rules forprocedures regarding sealed court cases in Maryland. At present, state rules do not spell out time guidelines for a judge's response to requests to unseal cases, she said.

The Sun also is asking the state court to expedite its appeal so that its motion to open the Bo Peepcase in Circuit Court can be acted on as quickly as possible.

"Time is of the essence in reporting the news," Craig wrote in court documents. "Unless this appeal is expedited, the Sun will be denied meaningful relief."

Circuit Court Judge William O. Carr initially sealed the case the day the suit was filed. That seal was to be in effectfor 60 days or until all defendants in the case filed responses, according to the order.

All the defendants filed responses by October, according to the court docket.

Carr signed a second order Jan. 17 sealing the Bo Peep case indefinitely, after the Sun informed the court that the first order had expired and requested to see the file.

Craig stated in her motion that the first order was issued withoutnotice or opportunity for the public to object.

The Sun filed a motion in Circuit Court July 20 requesting that the case be opened to the public and asking for a hearing on its request.

Carr has not responded to that motion or scheduled a hearing for it.

The Sun requested a hearing on its motion by calling and writing to Carr and other court officials five times between July 23 and September 28, Craigsaid.

Craig contends that the court's failure to comply constitutes a denial of her client's request for a hearing on the motion to unseal the case.

The suit names Patrick and Deborah Cassilly as defendants. The Cassillys owned the center, which was operated by DeborahCassilly.

Also named as defendants in the original complaint are former teachers Rita Blevins and Maureen Baxter, both of Bel Air, andTeri Schulz and Martha Scarborough.

Baxter and Schulz have been dropped from the suit, the court docket shows.

No criminal charges have been filed in the case.

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