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.
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.
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.