Bishops Ask Judge To Throw Out 2019 California Clergy Sex Abuse Law
Roman Catholic bishops in California are requesting that a judge throw out a law extending the deadline for child sex abuse victims to file lawsuits.
Motions filed this month in Alameda County and Los Angeles ask that judges rule AB-218 unconstitutional. Many arguments were presented, including one asserting that too much time has passed, making evidence collection too difficult for the defense.
The motions were filed on behalf of the archbishops of Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as the bishops of Orange, Fresno, Monterey, Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose and Santa Rosa.
At least 15 states have extended the statute of limitations for sexual abuse lawsuits, leading to thousands of new child sex abuse lawsuits.
AB-218 gave Californians a three-year window beginning on January 1, 2020 allowing lawsuits in cases past the statute of limitations, allowed people up to the age of 40 (previously 26) to sue for child sex abuse and provided for triple damages when “cover-ups” of previous sexual abuse by employees or volunteers lead to new cases of abuse. Californians, under the bill, can also file a lawsuit past the age of 40 if it has been less than five years since the person discovers or reasonably discovers that a psychological injury or illness was caused by the sexual assault.
Around 100 cases have been filed under the new law so far, but there may be as many as 500 to 1,500 cases involving the Catholic church, as well as thousands of others.
The Alameda County motion claims that by allowing lawsuits based on very old claims, AB-218 makes it “inevitable that witnesses will have died, memories faded, and documents may have been lost. This reality absolutely impairs the defendants’ ability to defend themselves.”
The Los Angeles motion claimed AB-218 “seeks to correct an injustice that does not exist with regard to the church defendants,” adding “the Legislature had no evidence of widespread abuse after 2003 and no evidence of cover-up.”
The Catholic church in California paid over $1.2 billion to settle abuse claims made during a similar extension in 2003.
Catholic bishops said in June 2020 that the church knew of over 4,400 sex abuse accusations against clergy in 2018-2019 – three times the amount from the year before.
Multiple lawsuits accuse the Catholic church of having an institutional policy of moving known sexual abusers of children from location to location to hide their misdeeds while systematically covering up the abuse and refusing to report it to authorities.