Reform Legislation Aiding Sex-Abuse Victims Inches Forward in California

UPDATE: Reform legislation in California benefitting victims of childhood sexual abuse cleared a big hurdle earlier this week. And now there are two more steps to go before a significant bill becomes law.

Senate Bill 131 would give sexual-abuse survivors a one-year window of opportunity to file a civil suit previously time-barred by statute of limitations. Plaintiffs could file a case against their abuser or their abuser’s employer. The window to file such cases would be open from 2014-2015.

On Sept. 4, SB131 passed the California Assembly with 44 yeas, 15 nays and 19 abstaining from voting. The bill now heads back to the Senate for amendments to be voted upon. The bill needs  21 of 40 votes to be approved. The bill is expected to be voted upon by week’s end.

If the measure passes the Senate, it will advance to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, where the governor has 30 days to sign it into law. If signed by the governor, the bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

SB 131 has been one of the tougher fought pieces of statute-reform legislation in the country. The bill faced intense opposition from critics, who have argued that the bill unfairly singles out the Catholic church, the Boy Scouts, and other private and nonprofit employers and exposes them to lawsuits over decades-old allegations tough to defend in court. We see it as necessary for abuse victims, giving them a much-needed shot at justice for cases typically not prosecuted under criminal statutes. SB 131 was defeated earlier this session but eventually passed the Senate last month in a comeback vote.

We’ll continue to keep a close eye on SB 131. We were curious to see if Gov. Brown had a statement or has indicated how he’ll vote on this. So far, we’ve not heard back from the governor’s press office, so we’ll continue to keep an eye on this. SB 131 is watershed legislation for sexual-abuse victims and could lead the way for other states to follow.

Contact:

Toll free: 855-529-4274
Tim Kosnoff, child sex-abuse attorney: 425-830-8201
Dan Fasy, child sex-abuse attorney: 206-462-4338
Kosnoff Fasy, Seattle office: 206-257-3590

 

 

Roman Catholic Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico is Set to File for Bankruptcy Protection as it Seeks to Address a Growing Number of Childhood Sexual-Abuse Cases

For sex abuse survivors from Northwestern New Mexico and Northern Arizona, now is the time to come forward.

We can help.

But time is of the essence. And it’s important to act promptly.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico has announced plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this month, faced with a growing number of child sexual-abuse claims against members of its clergy.

Those abused by Catholic clergy or employees of the Gallup Diocese may be able to file a claim in U.S. bankruptcy court.

However, these cases also come with a ticking time clock known as a “claims bar date.” After a deadline is set, abuse claims can be barred by statute of limitation.

The Diocese of Gallup has parishes in six counties in New Mexico, three counties in Arizona and at seven Native American reservations, including the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and parts of the Apache reservations. There have been a number of accused pedophile priests from this diocese, including Rev. Clement A. Hageman, Rev. Paul Sanchez and Rev. John T. Sullivan, according to Bishopaccountability.org, a watchdog group that tracks clergy sexual abuse.

On Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, Bishop James S. Wall read a letter to church-goers, telling them that in the face of insurmountable lawsuits the diocese saw few options but to seek protection from the courts, Catholic News Service reported.

“Given the financial circumstances of the diocese, I have come to the conclusion that the only fair, equitable and merciful way to balance these obligations is by filing a Chapter 11 reorganization,” Bishop said in a prepared statement.

The Gallup Diocese will be the ninth U.S. diocese or archdiocese to file for bankruptcy protection since 2004.

If you have been abused or have information about someone you know who has been abused, contact me at: dan@kosnoff.com. Or call our office at: 206-257-3590 or toll-free at: 855-LAW4CSA, 855-529-4272.

For further reading:

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news5/2013_09_03_Hardin_Burrola_Diocese_of_Gallup.htm

http://www.catholicsun.org/2013/09/03/diocese-of-gallup-n-m-poised-to-file-for-bankruptcy-protection/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/04/us-usa-church-abuse-idUSBRE98304G20130904

Contact:

Toll free: 855-529-4274
Tim Kosnoff, child sex-abuse attorney: 425-830-8201
Dan Fasy, child sex-abuse attorney: 206-462-4338
Kosnoff Fasy, Seattle office: 206-257-3590

 

California Set to Vote on ‘Window Legislation,’ Giving Abuse Survivors One Year to File Civil Lawsuits

By Martha Modeen

We’re keeping our eye on legislation in California.

Victims of childhood sexual abuse in California could have one more year to file civil lawsuits against alleged abusers under a bill that passed a key legislative committee this week. SB131 now heads to the full Assembly for a vote.

“Due to the nature of sex-abuse injuries, survivors often never come forward,” said Dan Fasy, partner at Kosnoff Fasy. “This legislation, if successful, will give victims in California one more shot at justice.”

Tim Kosnoff, partner at Kosnoff Fasy, agreed.

“This is an important development, and it’s gratifying to see,” Kosnoff said. “We’re seeing significant progress across the country benefiting abuse survivors.

The arc of history favors the just cause.”

This week’s successful vote comes one week after it failed in committee. SB 131 fell three votes short in the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week after six Democrats did not vote. California State Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) asked for reconsideration and, the bill passed on Wednesday, Aug. 21 on an 11-3 vote, with three members not voting. SB 131 is now headed to the full Assembly for a floor vote.

For further reading:

http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/08/from-failed-to-pass-assembly-committee-revives-sex-abuse-bill.html

http://www.pe.com/local-news/politics/jim-miller-headlines/20130821-legislature-sex-abuse-survivor-bill-advances-on-second-attempt.ece

A Look Back, a Look Ahead: What’s Changed for Sex-Abuse Cases in the Last 20 years

By TIM KOSNOFF
Two years ago, Simon and Schuster published “The Sins of Brother Curtis,” a book about a case of mine from the 1990s, which stretched for five years, start to finish. It was a transformative time for me. Not only was it my first civil case representing abuse victims, it also launched me in a completely different area of the law, from working as a criminal defense attorney to exclusively representing childhood sexual abuse survivors. That was nearly 20 years ago, and I haven’t looked back. I was among the first of a handful of attorneys in the country to identify themselves as a child sexual-abuse lawyer.

Since the book’s publication, Lisa Davis’s expose about child sexual-abuse in the Mormon Church has garnered well-earned recognition. The book has helped raise awareness about the ability and willingness of leaders of powerful institutions to tolerate and protect pedophiles within their ranks.

The book continues to be discovered, as it should be. This past spring, reviewer Julie Smith reposted a review:
“When Jeremiah [Scott] was young, he had been repeatedly molested by a Mormon Church elder. The church ‘bishop’ had been notified, but nothing was done. In uncovering the truth behind Jeremiah’s molestation by Brother Frank Curtis, [Tim] Kosnoff and his team also uncover a decades-long (1977-1991) string of molestations by Frank, in three different Mormon wards, as well as the now grown-up 20 other victims, one of them having spent time in a juvenile facility, himself accused of molestation. They also uncover what appears to be a pattern of cover-ups and misdirection on the part of the Mormon leadership that allowed this type of molestation to occur with other youth leaders.”
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Minnesota is the latest state to change its laws, giving childhood sexual-abuse victims a better chance for justice

By DAN FASY

It’s been happening around the country, most recently in Minnesota. States are revising statutes of limitation for civil cases, providing abuse survivors more options to pursue cases previously barred. Last month, the Minnesota state Senate passed a bill – as did the House – affirming that the opportunities for bringing civil cases involving child sexual abuse must be expanded. Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill into law May 24th.

The Minnesota Senate event was attended by a man named Joel Juers, an adult who was victimized as a child by a pedophile. He told reporters after the Senate vote:

“It was a powerful moment. There were so many positive emotions that I couldn’t even cry.”

The Minnesota new law is known as The Child Victims Act. When it became law, it altered, expanded, and in some cases eliminated a statute of limitations for civil suits charging child sexual abuse. This means that victims who were sexually abused when they were younger than 18 years old may commence a lawsuit for damages arising from the abuse at any time, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.  Defendants in future cases, of course, likely will include church institutions and other well-known organizations.

The legislation also provides a three-year period, during which victims whose claims would have been time barred by the previous statute of limitations, to bring civil suits against alleged abusers.

We at Kosnoff Fasy have represented hundreds of victims of alleged child sexual abuse in cases involving the Catholic and Mormon churches and the Boy Scouts of America. And we will continue to take cases arising in Minnesota.

As for Joel Juers: He has become a name and face for the refusal to succumb to the challenges he has faced. The following excerpts are from a recent story by Rebecca Rodenborg in the Faribault (Minnesota) Daily News:

“The man previously only identified as ‘Joel’ in a story about alleged sex abuse at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in 1980 has now found a reason to come forward more publicly.

Joel Juers was just 14 years old when he says he was sexually abused by now former . . . teacher Joseph Machlitt. He didn’t tell police until last fall, when he said he realized Machlitt was recently employed as a tutor for Hispanic students in Edina.

Now at the age of 47, Juers has no chance for justice against his alleged abuser. Criminal charges were dropped because the statute of limitations had expired.

“… Called the Minnesota Child Victims Act, [the legislation] would allow anyone who was sexually abused as a child to bring a civil lawsuit at any time against his or her abuser or the institution that facilitated the abuse — no matter how long ago it occurred.

Advocates like Juers say the new law would encourage victims of child sex abuse to come forward and potentially identify abusers who have never been caught and are still abusing children.

Jeff Dion, deputy executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, offered this perspective:

“Pedophiles don’t retire. Even when it’s 30 years after the abuse, the perpetrator is still alive. Maybe they’re in a walker or a wheelchair, but they may still be molesting kids.”

And, we would add, even if they aren’t any longer sexually molesting children, they still must be brought into court and face justice in civil cases. Contact us at Kosnoff Fasy if you agree.

Our attorneys are highly experienced in child sexual abuse law and offer free initial consultations to potential clients. We are also willing to assist other attorneys in sexual abuse cases. Please call 206-257-3590, or email us directly. Conversations will be kept confidential, and even if you are unsure about a lawsuit, often we can direct you to the assistance you need. You will be treated with compassion and respect.

 

Toll free: 855-529-4274
Tim Kosnoff, direct: 425-837-9690
Dan Fasy, direct: 206-462-4338
Kara Tredway, direct: 206-453-0579
Kosnoff Fasy, Seattle office: 206-257-3590

Minnesota Senate OKs Bill Easing Lawsuits for Child Sexual Abuse

Change in Minnesota Law would:

  • For older cases, it would create a three-year window for past victims to file lawsuits against abusers and institutions that may have failed to protect them

Posted on May 10, 2013

“This is a huge development. Other states likely will follow.” —  Tim Kosnoff
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2013/05/08/politics/senate-passes-bill-easing-lawsuits-for-child-sexual-abuse

Our attorneys are highly experienced in child sexual abuse law and offer free initial consultations to potential clients. We are also willing to assist other attorneys in sexual abuse cases. Please call 206-257-3590, or email us directly. Conversations will be kept confidential, and even if you are unsure about a lawsuit, often we can direct you to the assistance you need. You will be treated with compassion and respect.

Toll free: 855-529-4274
Tim Kosnoff, direct: 425-837-9690
Dan Fasy, direct: 206-462-4338
Kara Tredway, direct: 206-453-0579
Kosnoff Fasy, Seattle office: 206-257-3590

 

Alleged Abuse by Hawaiian Priest Has a Familiar Ring to It

By TIM KOSNOFF

Cops know it as “M.O.” In Latin it’s “modus operandi” and in English it’s “mode” or “method” of operation.

In matters of child sexual abuse, the M.O. is often eerily the same. Such, according to recent allegations, was the case pertaining to Father George DeCosta, a priest in Hawaii. DeCostsa is listed in a database of priests publicly accused of childhood sexual abuse in Hawaii, as tracked by BishopAccountability.org.  http://www.bishop-accountability.org/
The temptation is to use the cliché, “Stop us if you’ve heard this one.” At our law firm we’ve heard the familiar sounding account many times, and the details are as predictable as recurring bad dreams.

The following is from the Aug. 22, 2012, Hawaii Tribune Herald:
 The child sex abuse scandal surrounding the Catholic Church has hit close to home, with fingers of accusation pointing at a priest revered in the local community.


Father George DeCosta, who for almost three decades was the parish priest at Malia Puka O Kalani Catholic Church in Keaukaha, has been accused of abuse by two Hawaii men. The two were students at Damien Memorial High School in the 1960s when DeCosta was the chaplain there. [One of the men] was a sophomore at Damien in 1968. …

        The [victim] states that DeCosta provided him with alcohol, ‘insisted they go swimming’ and ‘forced’ him into skinny dipping. He wrote that he became ‘incapacitated’ and when he awoke DeCosta was ‘masturbating’ him and ‘fondling his testicles.

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Joliet, Illinois: How one abuse victim pushed for release of secret church files, and prevailed

By DAN FASY

It could’ve been a heart-breaking tale. Instead it’s eminently heartening, about a man wanting to do more than settle his case with Catholic Church officials who, for more than half a century, were the enablers and protectors of pedophile priests in and around Joliet, Illinois.

In a superb story (URL below) by three Chicago Tribune reporters, it’s recounted how David Rudofski stood up to the power of the Joliet  Archdiocese. Rudofski was sexually abused the day of his first confession. In settling his case, Rudofski demanded that church officials make public what proved to be more than 7,000 documents detailing how pedophile priests were protected and child victims were ignored.

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The Sad, But All Too Familiar Fact in Abuse Cases: Pedophiles are Often ‘Trusted,’ Well Known by Survivors and Relatives

By DAN FASY

A recent pair of links we posted on our Facebook page inadvertently demonstrate something of a range of ways the scourge of child sexual abuse is revealed to the public.

One is a news story about the aunt of an alleged victim discovering references to abuse incidents on her niece’s Facebook page. The allegations indicate that the predator is another member of the extended Indianapolis family.
If so, the case would jibe with several familiar patterns. One is the high likelihood that the pedophile would be well known by the victim — would, in fact, likely be a family member. Another is that the alleged victim waited, in this case about two years, before revealing what she remembers. Yet another is the implicit reluctance of the victim to more overtly come forward and charge the perpetrator.

One certainly can understand the reluctance. Imagine the feeling of powerlessness of, in this instance, a 13-year-old girl. She’s already been forced by circumstances to process what she claims are two cases of molestation. Then she has to summon the emotional wherewithal to come forward in some fashion and, in effect, let the world know what happened.

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Revising the Statute of Limitations in New York and Other States is the Right Thing to Do

By DANIEL FASY

No one can say that Margaret M. Markey hasn’t tried.

The New York State assemblywoman has been laboring in vain since 2006 to change the way that the Empire State has remained maddeningly negligent in facing a pressing need, articulated last May by the Queens Borough Democrat

Last spring she wrote to constituents:

“I held a series of informational events in Albany earlier this year to bring to the attention of Governor [Andrew] Cuomo and my colleagues in the Legislature to the wide-ranging problem of child sexual abuse in society.

“We looked at the recent revelations in the world of sports and learned about abuse in schools and institutions. We heard one of the state’s leading prosecutors speak about how current statutes of limitations in New York State need to be changed in order to bring justice to victims.

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