Louisville, Ky. Attorney Stan Chesley promised confidentiality to more than 350 people who said they were sexually abused by priests. Then a judge ordered him to reveal their names, along with contact information and a description of the abuse.
Unless the judge and attorneys reach a compromise, the Kentucky Court of Appeals will decide whether a promise of confidentiality trumps the need for prosecutors to get information on an alleged crime - and whether a judge can order an attorney to reveal the identities of clients in a civil lawsuit.
Special Judge John Potter suspended his ruling this past week for 60 days to allow time for an appeal or resolution to the dispute.
The dispute is unprecedented among the numerous sex abuse lawsuits filed against the Roman Catholic church in North America, say the attorneys, the judge and outside observers.