The "perversion files," a nickname the Boy Scouts are said to have used for the documents, have rarely been seen by the public, but that could all change in the coming weeks in an Oregon courtroom.
A trial is under way for a man who claims the Boy Scouts covered up sexual abuse by Scout leaders for decades, and that he was one of the victims as a child.
The man's attorney, Kelly Clark, told a jury in his opening statement that about 1,000 files the Boy Scouts were ordered to hand over will show a national pattern of failure to prevent abuse or punish child molesters.
"The Boy Scouts of America ignored clear warning signs that Boy Scouts were being abused," Clark said.
But Charles "Chuck" Smith, the attorney for the Boy Scouts, said in his opening statement that those files were kept under wraps because they "were replete with confidential information" that should only be reviewed under court order.
He referred to them as "red flag" files to help national scouting leaders weed out sex offenders, especially repeat offenders who may have changed names or moved in order to join another local scouting organization.
A spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America at its headquarters in Irving, Texas, said in a statement that the organization cannot comment on details of the case. But it has worked hard on awareness and prevention efforts, including background checks.
"Unfortunately, child abuse is a societal problem and there is no fail-safe method for screening out abusers," Deron Smith said.
The lawsuit also names the Cascade Pacific Council of the Boy Scouts, which oversees scouting in Oregon.
It had also named the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because the Mormons acted as a charter organization, or sponsor, for the local Boy Scouts troop that included the victim. But the church has settled its portion of the case.
The trial began Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court and is expected to last about four weeks.