New York State Supreme Court Judge Steve Jaeger of Nassau County made a bold and significant ruling on May 20, 2020 that “the Child Victims Act is a reasonable response to remedy the injustice of past child sexual abuse.” In the ruling, Judge Jaeger held that “Accordingly, it does not violate defendant diocese’s right to due process under the New York State Constitution.” Effectively, upholding the constitutionality of New York State’s landmark Child Victims Act (CVA), that lifted the statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims dating back indefinitely. This news is only bolstered by the determination of Governor Cuomo to use his emergency powers to extend the look-back window from August 2020 until January 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The holding was based upon a motion to dismiss 44 CVA claims, made against the Diocese of Rockville Centre. The CVA was enacted in 2019 to enable the filing of molestation and sex abuse lawsuits previously blocked by the statute of limitations. Childhood sex abuse survivors can continue to seek justice against the institutions and individuals that failed them.
Bridie Farrell, America Loves Kids Founder and CEO, whose organization was critical in the enactment of the Child Victims Act, stated: “The efforts to overturn CVA in the courts are just another cynical attempt to muzzle survivors. Those who seek to re-victimize survivors had their way for decades. Now, sound legislation and prudent rulings by the courts are giving us justice. We are grateful for this decision in Nassau County.”
“The ruling on the constitutionality of the CVA is critical on two levels,” said Tim Hale of Nye, Stirling, Hale & Miller LLP, who represents victims of sexual abuse. “It gives survivors confidence in their ability to pursue justice for the crimes they suffered. It also protects today’s children and prevents future abuse. Where criminal statutes of limitations have expired, civil windows like the CVA provide the only way to discover and notify parents and other childcare custodians of who poses a risk to their children, both in terms of perpetrators, and in terms of entities that conceal such predators from discovery.”
More than 1,700 lawsuits have been filed across New York State since the opening of the window for CVA claims in August of 2019. The Rockville Centre diocese’s motion was an attempt to dismiss all claims against it. The Rockville Centre claim was based on the argument that the reopening of the statute of limitations was unconstitutional and violated their due process rights. If granted, it would have placed all 1,700 claims under the CVA in jeopardy of being dismissed.
Judge Jaeger boldly disagreed. The diocese has already expressed disappointment in the ruling, and they plan to appeal the decision.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).