Tag: statute of limitations

statute of limitations reform

Statute of Limitations Reform May Be Coming to Nebraska and New Mexico

The march toward greater safety for kids and greater healing for victims continues. Two more states – Nebraska and New Mexico – are considering civil window legislation that would mean more of those who commit and conceal child sex crimes would be exposed and more of those who are suffering because of child sex crimes would be comforted.
https://apnews.com/article/nebraska-statutes-legislature-religion-lawsuits-ce5c21dfe5a1407edc10482d3f61ae79

https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/bill-would-remove-statute-of-limitations-for-child-sex-abuse-lawsuits/article_3ae2bd2a-7df3-11ec-b391-435146336a7c.html

And there’s more good news. Some who oppose this progress – often for selfish, financial reasons – are grasping more and more often at straws to fight this trend. And some of these straws are transparently silly.

Take Korby Gilbertson, a lobbyist for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, who talked about this reform measure to Nebraska news media. She made two points that deserve further examination. First, Gilbertson said the window “could lead to lawsuits against organizations under new leadership that wasn’t involved with previous offenses.”  So what? This is true of almost all civil litigation.
This is why Jeffrey Epstein couldn’t just transfer all of his businesses and assets when his crimes began to surface and thus dodge all civil lawsuits. This is why the Vatican can’t just name a new bishop for a diocese the minute child sex crimes against priests in that diocese start coming to light and walk away scot-free.  “The owner of that business may not be the same owner, may not have any knowledge of the crime that was committed,” she said.

What exactly would Ms. Gilbertson like to see? A legal system that lets the most callous, reckless, selfish CEO suddenly sell his business to a new owner every time he’s caught injuring others he deceived?  If that’s what she prefers, we wish her luck. We at Horowitz Law don’t know of such a system anywhere.
The same new source noted that Gilbertson “also noted that civil cases have a lower standard of proof than criminal matters in which prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”  She’s right. But what’s the relevance here?  She insinuates that there may be false allegations. Well, of course. Any time a door is opened, someone who should not might walk through it. Does that possibility lead anyone to say “Hey, let’s just keep all doors locked all the time!”

And of course criminal cases have a higher standard of proof. That’s because criminal cases can result in imprisoning people. We should certainly have a higher bar for a significantly higher punishment.
We would point out to Ms. Gilbertson and her pro-profit, anti-child colleagues that almost half of the nation’s 50 states have enacted window legislation. Virtually no one has complained that mistakes have been made and innocent defendants have wrongly been held accountable.  Not surprisingly, Nebraska’s window bill “drew opposition from the Catholic Church which would likely have to make large payouts for decades-old abuse cases if the measure were to pass.”

Church spokesman Tom Venzor doesn’t want Catholic institutions to “face decades-old lawsuits involving people who are no longer alive. . .”  What? So a religiously-affiliated day care center can knowingly hire a serial child molester, let him rape and fondle five year olds, but get off the hook once the molester dies? Is that what Venzor wants to see?

And need we point out that a child predator can pass away minutes after violating a child; he’ll never suffer again while she suffers perhaps for the rest of her life.  “Statutes of limitation are an attempt to balance the interests of plaintiffs and defendants,” he said.  We wholeheartedly agree. But take a look at the ‘balance’ that’s been achieved as the law stands now. One in five girls are molested and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. Only a tiny fraction of their offenders are sued or exposed.
https://victimsofcrime.org/child-sexual-abuse-statistics/

These figures suggest, in fact, that right now, there’s no ‘balance’ at all. The deck is stacked against the vulnerable and the innocent and towards the powerful and abusive adults.  So we are grateful that lawmakers from coast to coast are beginning to understand this and take corrective action.

Finally, we at Horowitz Law want to give an enthusiastic shout out to Republican Senator Rich Pahls of Omaha and Democratic Senator Katy Duhigg of Albuquerque who are pushing this long-overdue step toward stopping both child sex abuse and cover up of that abuse in a time-tested, reasonable way: through our civil justice system.

 

Perhaps the Craziest Claim by Anti-SOL Zealots

The momentum has shifted from the selfish wrongdoers to the selfless innocent, from the secret-keepers to the openness advocates, from those who ignore common sense and psychology to those who understand common sense and psychology and from those who want to protect institutions and companies to those who want to protect kids and vulnerable adults.

That’s why 2019 was a banner year for removing these out-of-date deadlines that stop victims from exposing those who commit and conceal sexual abuse in court.

And in response to this long-overdue trend toward justice, self-serving lobbyists who are pro-arbitrary deadline, pro-secrecy and anti-victim are becoming ever-more-creative in dreaming up outlandish ‘the sky will fall!’ claims.

Here’s the latest, from Georgia: Mark Behrens, a Washington, D.C.-based corporate defense attorney representing the American Tort Reform Association, claims that if Georgia lawmakers fix the state’s restrictive statute of limitations “The financial impacts are going to be enormous. . .”
https://www.augustachronicle.com/news/20200304/hidden-predator-bill-widens-statute-of-limitations-for-child-sex-abuse-lawsuits-in-georgia

Three points:

First, the “financial impacts” of abuse and cover up already exist. On one side, they’re being paid by still-suffering victims of abuse who spend small fortunes on therapy and medical bills they shouldn’t have to bear.  And the “financial impacts” of abuse have ALREADY been paid, in advance, by institutions who have used donations over decades to pay for insurance coverage.

Second, opening the courthouse doors enables victims to SHIFT those “financial impacts” away from the innocent and wounded and society at large TO the wrongdoers.

Third, if those being sued want to REDUCE “financial impacts,” there’s a simple way to do that: stop spending hundreds of thousands on expensive defense lawyers and exploit every possible technicality to slow down litigation and wear down victims.

(And by the way, what “financial impact,” what dollar figure, does Behrens propose we put on the safe, crime-free upbringing of a child into a full-functioning, healthy, productive adult?)

So hats off to Republican Rep. Heath Clark and Democratic Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver who are leading the fight for victims and children. And shame on Behrens and other ‘corporate defense lawyers’ who put their well-heeled clients first and the vulnerable and wounded second.

Legislative Reform Sexual Abuse

‘Tis the Season for Legislative Reform

Tis the season for legislative reform

Because we at Horowitz Law harp about it so often about, it would be easy to assume that civil windows are the very best legislative step to protect kids.

(See here for example: https://adamhorowitzlaw.com/more-statute-of-limitations-reforms-in-the-works/)

But civil windows aren’t the ONLY way legislators can help stop sexual violence.

We at Horowitz Law ALSO harp bout being vigilant around kids.

But that’s not the only group only people who need vigilance. Legislators do too.

And since many legislators are in session right now, here are, in our view, a few other reforms that would enable more child molesters to be caught, convicted and kept away from kids. In addition to civil windows, state legislators should consider pushing and backing these steps:

—RICO laws (which stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations). These statutes enable lawyers and law enforcement to better pursue those who CONCEAL abuse, not just those who COMMIT abuse.

—Laws banning or restricting “gag orders” or “NDAs” (non-disclosure agreements), which are becoming more common in the #MeToo, post-Harvey Weinstein era.

—Mandatory reporting laws, especially with tougher penalties (See more about how we view these statutes here: https://adamhorowitzlaw.com/which-reform-is-better-mandatory-reporting-or-statute-of-limitations/.

—Anti-SLAPP laws (which stands for ‘strategic lawsuit against public participation). These measures protect non-profits who help expose abusers and their enablers from mean-spirited, intimidating litigation designed to silence victims, advocates and whistleblowers.

The West Virginia legislature has enacted a bill that would require that the conduct of accused child molesting teachers “be investigated fully, even if they resign.”

It also adds language about “defining grooming a student or minor.” As a local newspaper editorial put it “Giving everyone a clear understanding of what the law means by ‘grooming a student or minor’ is essential, and administrators much be certain every teacher is familiar with the law.”

(The measure, HB 4378, awaits the signature of Gov. Jim Justice.)

https://www.newsandsentinel.com/opinion/editorials/2020/03/predators-justice-should-sign-bill-protecting-children/

And Missouri lawmaker has introduced a so-called ‘Victims Bill of Rights.” Sponsored by Senator David Sater (R-Cassville), the proposal “would establish protections for survivors during and after sexual assault forensic examinations” including “the right to have a staff member or volunteer from a rape crisis center on hand during examinations and interviews with law enforcement.”

Additionally, the measure would also “ensure that survivors are never prosecuted for misdemeanor crimes based on evidence from their examinations, among other protections.”

https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/missouri-lawmakers-consider-bill-of-rights-for-sexual-assault-survivors/article_baae3e19-d9fc-57f1-ac64-c74a85641a5f.html

We at Horowitz Law haven’t studied all these proposals. But we sure endorse the concepts: clarifying and codifying increased protections for those who report sexual violence AND making it harder for accused abusive teachers to quietly move elsewhere.

Finally, here’s something else to consider: If you’re a survivor, want to protect others and expose wrongdoers but retain your privacy, lobbying for better is a potentially good option for you. Why? Because you need not explain yourself or your motivations when pushing legislative change. Many will assume you’re a parent or a friend of a victim of sexual violence. Many others will be sensitive enough to not ask “Why are you doing this?” Regardless, you can prod and educate lawmakers about sexual violence without disclosing that you’ve experienced it.

sexual statute of limitations - Horowitz Law

Which Reform is Better: Mandatory Reporting or Statute of Limitations?

You might wonder “Why the constant harping about fixing or removing the statute of limitations on child sex crimes? Why not just fix or expand mandatory reporting laws that penalize those who ignore abuse reports or suspicions?”

Here’s why. . .

First, mandatory reporting laws are rarely used. When was the last time you saw this headline on line or in your daily newspaper: “Counselor goes to jail for not reporting suspected abuse” or

“Nurse must pay big fine for keeping potential child sex crimes hidden” or “Principal is jailed; she didn’t call cops about possible abuse.”

(Despite decades of stunning child sex scandals, in which literally hundreds of bishops didn’t disclose – and in fact, actively concealed – pedophile priests, only one bishop has been convicted of violating his mandatory reporting obligation: Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City MO. A few others, in Santa Rosa CA, Manchester NH and Cincinnati OH, came close.)

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2012/09_10/2012_09_07_Palosaari_BishopRobert.htm

So these prosecutions just don’t happen often. Usually, police and district attorneys focus solely on the offender, not those who could and should have stopped the offender.

Second, mandatory reporting law violations, when used, often result in paltry penalties. In some states, if you know or suspect abuse, are obligated to report it but do not, you can be fined a maximum of $1,000. That’s pathetic. (No wonder law enforcement is reluctant to bring charges like this.)

Third, prosecutors are often political creatures. They concentrate, at least in part, on building their careers and reputations. An easy way to do this is to grab the “low hanging fruit” – the offenders, not their allies or co-conspirators or enablers. That wins them votes. (Ask yourself: if your local DA could only go after one group, would you rather it be bank robbers or get-away drivers?)

Fourth, prosecutors often are (or believe they are) underfunded. It’s usually cheaper and easier to pursue street level drug dealers rather than the more sophisticated, careful drug kingpins.

Finally, ask yourself “Who is apt to be the most motivated to report and expose a child molester?” The obvious answer: one of his or her victims.

That’s why statute of limitations repeal is the most effective: it gives the most power to protect others and expose abusers to people with the most incentive to do so – victims.

(If there’s no statute of limitations on child sex crimes, victims have two effective options – try to get law enforcement to act OR get a civil lawyer to act.)

So let’s stick with what we KNOW works: removing or relaxing the statutes of limitations that prevent victims of sexual violence from getting justice in the time-tested, centuries old way most crime victims do: in the courts.

(Indiana has also joined the list of states working on SOL reform:

https://www.courierpress.com/story/opinion/columnists/jon-webb/2020/02/19/indiana-bill-could-possibly-help-victims-priest-sex-abuse/4797135002/)

(More info on mandatory reporting laws is here: https://www.d2l.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Mandated_Reporting_07.07.15.pdf)

(And mandatory reporting laws sometimes cover violations that don’t involve direct physical contact, like ‘sexting’ and/or nude photos, https://www.southcoasttoday.com/news/20200214/when-must-school-district-report-criminal-sex-allegations-reports-of-nude-photo-disseminated-at-voc-tech-spark-questions)