Sexual abuse victims’ chance to file lawsuits in old cases remains in question after court ruling

Jun 27, 2023, 4:47 PM

The Louisiana Supreme Court on Tuesday sidestepped a ruling on the constitutionality of legislation that gives victims of childhood sexual abuse a renewed chance to file lawsuits after the usual time limits for such suits have expired.

The ruling had been highly anticipated by advocates for abuse victims, who had hoped the state’s highest court would uphold the constitutionality of legislation passed in 2021 and revised in 2022.

The legislation was passed by lawmakers under the theory that fear and stigma might have kept victims from revealing the abuse as children and into adulthood. Lawmakers debated it against the backdrop of ongoing global revelations of sex abuse of children by clergy.

The Louisiana legislation gives victims until mid-2024 to file such lawsuits if they missed deadlines to file in existing law.

Kathryn Robb, executive director of Child USAdvocacy, a national nonprofit agency that advocates for better child protection laws, decried the ruling as a missed opportunity to uphold the law.

“Sadly, they punted it,” Robb said in an interview. “I think this is just going to further injure so many survivors who have been waiting for so long for their day in court, for justice and accountability.”

Robb said 26 states have passed similar “revival” laws granting victims a new chance to sue. She said 12 have been upheld so far.

The Louisiana case involved a man identified in court records only by the initials T.S. He had sued officials of a Catholic school in New Orleans, saying he was sexually abused by a priest there in 1965, when he was 11 years old.

A lower court had ruled against T.S., saying the 2021 legislation reviving his opportunity to sue was unconstitutional. Tuesday’s ruling vacated that decision on what amounts to procedural grounds. The high court said T.S. wasn’t eligible to sue — even under the language of the 2021 legislation — so it is premature to rule on the constitutionality of the law.

“While we acknowledge this case presents a sensitive issue which is important to the citizens of our state, we cannot ignore the fundamental principles of orderly statutory interpretation,” Justice James Genovese wrote.

Three justices dissented and two of them wrote opinions saying the majority failed to address a 2022 revision of the 2021 law that would allow T.S. to pursue his suit if the laws are found to be constitutional. T.S. could amend his suit, filed in 2021, to account for the 2022 changes, they noted. But Chief Justice John Weimer said he shouldn’t have to.

“The highest court in this state should resolve the underlying issue to provide necessary resolution and then closure, which these parties and countless others still hope to find,” Weimer wrote.

It was unclear Tuesday when the court will again address the issue, although Robb said there are likely hundreds of other cases in the state.

Robb said the continued uncertainty could dissuade other victims from filing suit before the June 2024 deadline.

“You’ve already had so many, numerous trust issues with those in authority, and to have the highest court say, ‘Let’s save it for another day.’ I can’t imagine the pain,” she said.

United States News

Associated Press

Trump and DeSantis will hold dueling campaign events in Iowa with the caucuses just six weeks away

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Ron DeSantis plans on Saturday to complete his campaign promise to visit each of Iowa’s 99 counties, a timeworn tactic for presidential candidates hoping to make their mark in the leadoff state over months mingling with voters at the state’s diners, cookouts and Pizza Ranches. But the Florida governor’s moment, […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is shown before administering the oath of office t...

Associated Press

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor paved a path for women on the Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — One fall day in 2010, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor slipped into the courtroom where she worked for nearly 25 years to take in an “amazing” sight. The first — and for 12 years, the only — woman on the high court saw three women in black robes among the […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

US Navy plans to raise jet plane off Hawaii coral reef using inflatable cylinders

HONOLULU (AP) — The U.S. Navy plans to use inflatable cylinders to lift and roll a jet plane off a coral reef in Hawaii before removal from the ocean waters where the aircraft crashed on Nov. 20. Rear Adm. Kevin Lenox, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 3 who is leading the salvage effort, said […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Las Vegas police search for suspect after 5 homeless people are shot, killing 2

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Five homeless people were shot in Las Vegas on Friday, two of them fatally, and police were searching for a lone suspect, authorities said. The shooting occurred around 5:30 p.m. near a freeway overpass in the northeastern part of the city, according to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Mark Lourenco. […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Judge rejects calls to halt winter construction work on Willow oil project in Alaska during appeal

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A federal judge in Alaska on Friday rejected requests from environmental groups to halt winter construction work for the massive Willow oil project on Alaska’s North Slope while the groups’ legal fight over the drilling project wages on. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason just last month upheld the Biden administration’s […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Frank Rocco Giustino, who skippe...

Associated Press

Lawsuits against Trump over Jan. 6 riot can move forward, appeals court rules

Lawsuits against Donald Trump over the U.S. Capitol riot can move forward, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.


Dierdre Woodruff

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University: innovating Arizona health care education

Midwestern University’s Glendale Campus near Loop 101 and 59th Avenue is an established leader in health care education and one of Arizona’s largest and most valuable health care resources.

Sexual abuse victims’ chance to file lawsuits in old cases remains in question after court ruling