Florida’s Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyers
Florida is home to more than two million Catholics attending more than 450 parishes in one of the state’s seven Catholic dioceses. Florida also became a dumping ground for problem priests from northern dioceses as the Florida Catholic population grew and other bishops ran out of options for priests repeatedly accused of sexually abusing kids. Decisions by Florida’s Catholic bishops and leaders to prioritize staffing and secrecy over safety put millions of unsuspecting parishioners in a danger zone where they could be sexually abused and exploited by the very men they trusted to be a leader of their flock.
Each and every Catholic Diocese in Florida has been home to priests that Florida’s bishops and Catholic leaders admit sexually abused one or more minor children:
- Archdiocese of Miami
- Diocese of St. Augustine
- Diocese of St. Petersburg
- Diocese of Orlando
- Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee
- Diocese of Palm Beach
- Diocese of Venice
Sexual abuse by a member of the clergy is a breach of trust at the highest level. Adam Horowitz is among the most experienced attorneys in the country in representing persons sexually abused by priests from the Catholic church and clergy of many other faiths. Since 2000, the lawyers of Horowitz Law have handled hundreds of clergy sexual abuse cases involving various religious institutions, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, the Episcopal Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Judaism, and Jehovah’s Witness. These cases have incidents in religious school, churches/parishes, seminaries, religious counseling, retreats, schools and other activities sponsored by religious institutions. Our clients were Catholic grammar school students, altar boys, parishioners, and congregants when they were sexually abused.
The lawyers at Horowitz Law are led by our managing partner, Adam Horowitz. We have been representing survivors of clergy abuse for decades. In cases across the country and in almost every state, our lawyers advocate for sexual abuse victims by priests and other clergy, but we call South Florida home.
The lawyers of Horowitz Law have prevailed on complex issues in clergy abuse cases involving statute of limitations, the First Amendment, and discovery of “confidential” records that the Catholic Church tried to conceal for decades. In fighting these battles, our attorneys have became familiar with the church’s unique hierarchy, record-keeping policies, terminology, and tactics used by the highest-paid defense lawyers the Florida Catholic Dioceses can find.
Most importantly, we have become familiar with the unique emotional, spiritual and sometimes physical pain experienced by survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their families. Keeping a secret for decades can take its toll on anyone and we are here to help. It’s time.
Your Potential Legal Options
Your first step in seeking accountability and healing through the justice system is contacting an experienced and tenacious lawyer who will be your advocate and ally. You do not have to go this confusing and sometimes overwhelming road alone.
When you meet with one of our attorneys, we will discuss the facts of your case and offer you various legal options that could include one or more of the following:
Civil litigation involves the filing a lawsuit against a Catholic Diocese that seeks money damages for the pain and suffering, medical (therapy) expenses, and wage losses of a victim of clergy sexual abuse. Sometimes, the courts will also allow us to seek punitive damages when the Diocese’s conduct in covering up for and protecting a predator priest or serial abuser is particularly egregious.
We recognize that money does not repair the damage done by the violation of trust and bodily integrity that is sexual abuse. However, in reality, therapy, medication, education, and the repair of broken relationships is expensive and that should be the responsibility of those responsible for hurting you, not you, your family, or even Florida’s taxpayers. Additionally, as one of the richest institutions in the world, the Roman Catholic Church only gets the message that it made mistakes and bad decisions that endangered innocent people when they (or their insurers) have to write a check.
Police Report and Criminal Prosecution
Every state has a different statute of limitations for the investigation and prosecution of sex crimes against children. As in other states, the Florida statute of limitations will also depend upon the age of the victim and the specific sexual acts performed by the perpetrator. If you are interested in pursuing criminal action against your perpetrator, our attorneys will be your advocates through that process. It is a common misconception that the victim of sexual abuse is in control of the criminal prosecution; in reality, the victim is only a witness in the State of Florida’s case. Other times, a decision is made not to prosecute a case for various reasons, and victims do not typically have a say in that decision.
The criminal justice process can be overwhelming and confusing if the prosecutor, who is often managing a large caseload, does not adequately communicate with the victims of crime. Unfortunately, that happens more often than not through no fault of the prosecutor. It is simply the reality of a system stretched to its limits with limited resources. While our attorneys do not actively participate in the criminal proceedings, we can be your guide through the process.
In many cases, the criminal statute of limitations has expired or the perpetrator has become old and infirm and cannot be prosecuted. That decision does not affect your ability to seek remedy through the civil courts; your right to file a lawsuit is not dependent upon whether the perpetrator was criminally convicted or not. Likewise, where both remedies are available, you do not have to choose one over the other – your legal rights can be pursued in both the criminal and civil courts.
Injunctive Relief and Protective Orders
In some cases, it is appropriate to seek “injunctive relief” against a Catholic Diocese or the perpetrator. An injunction is a court order requiring the other party to do something or to stop doing something, such as stopping an accused perpetrator from having access to you or to other children. It might be directed at an employer and require it to create a policy that better protects children. Where there is a current and ongoing threat, an injunction of some type might be an ideal legal remedy to stop the threat or the bad action that is causing harm. Our attorneys will discuss this option with you if the facts of your case suggest that this type of relief might be appropriate. In most cases, the threat of a large money verdict is as effective as an injunction at getting a defendant to change its practices, but not always.
Contact the experienced lawyers at Horowitz Law today.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in Florida. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a Catholic priest or lay employee in Florida, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in Florida now have legal options, but statutes of limitations will apply so do not delay in contacting us now. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Florida and nationwide.