Revised Markey bill to be voted on by N.Y. Assembly within days - Catholic Courier

Revised Markey bill to be voted on by N.Y. Assembly within days

The proposed Child Victims Act of New York, which would temporarily suspend the state’s civil statute of limitations on the filing of child sex-abuse lawsuits, was revised June 4 to allow claims against both public and private entities. The bill is expected to come before the state Assembly for a vote within the next few days.
 
“After several years of denying the fact that her bill would exempt public institutions, Mrs. Markey (the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, D-Queens) has now acknowledged that her original bill did just that," said a June 5 statement from Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference. “However, even this amended bill remains terrible public policy for the state.”
 
Markey’s Child Victims Act of New York (A2596a) proposes to temporarily waive — or create a "window" in — the state’s current civil statute of limitations on cases of child sexual abuse, giving alleged victims a period of one year in which to lodge previously time-barred claims, no matter how long ago the abuse is alleged to have occurred.
 
When Markey introduced her proposal earlier this year, the bill applied only to claims against private organizations and businesses, and did not address the statute of limitations on claims against public entities. In New York, those who wish to sue a public institution — regardless of the nature of their claims — are required by current law to file a notice of claim, notifying the institution of their intent to sue within 90 days of the alleged incident from which the claim arises.
 
The Catholic conference has opposed the Markey bill, contending that it unfairly applies to private institutions and not public ones and that it’s consequences would jeopardize the ability of the Catholic Church’s and other private institutions to provide health care, social services and educational programs. The conference, which represents New York’s bishops on matters of public policy, also noted that statutes of limitations are needed to preserve justice for defendants because decades-old cases can become impossible to defend.
 
On June 4, the Markey bill was revised to remove the notice-of-claim requirement for cases against public institutions, and to limit the filing of previously time-barred suits to cases that are filed by the time the alleged victim is 53 (35 years after the alleged victim’s 18th birthday).
 
Even with these revisions, the state Catholic conference pointed out June 5 that the bill would still have stark economic consequences for public and private institutions throughout the state.
 
"It is no less detrimental to the church and will now also financially devastate public-school districts and other public institutions," said an action-alert statement released June 5 by the conference’s Catholic Advocacy Network.
 
The action-alert statement noted that the Assembly is scheduled within the next several days to vote on the Markey bill, which also would give child sex-abuse victims until age 28 to file civil lawsuits. The conference’s alert urged Catholics to urge their Assembly representatives to vote against the Child Victims Act of New York and a second Markey-sponsored bill, A8739, which has language nearly identical to the first.
 
Barnes cited the potential economic ramifications as a major reason for opposition to the bill.
 
“Mrs. Markey and her supporters have stated that Catholic clergy account for only 2 percent of sexual abuse cases," he said. "In California, a ‘window’ bill aimed at the church resulted in some $1.3 billion in settlements from Catholic entities. It is therefore likely that Mrs. Markey’s bill could easily result in hundreds of billions of dollars in settlements against all entities, public and private, in every corner of our state. Clearly, such staggering numbers make this legislation a matter of grave consequence and intense public interest.”
 
The conference has supported an alternative bill that would give alleged victims additional time to file child-sex-abuse lawsuits, but does not include the one-year window for previously time-barred cases. This bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn) would allow victims to file child sexual-abuse lawsuits until they are 25. Like Markey’s revised bill, the Lopez bill does not distinguish between public and private entities.
 
Both the Markey and Lopez bills were referred in April to a special Assembly steering committee. The conference has said both are eligible to be voted upon by the Assembly at any time.
 
EDITOR’S NOTE: Visitors to the New York State Catholic Conference’s Web site, www.nyscatholic.org, may click on the "Take Action Now" button to find a draft message of opposition to the both bills sponsored by Margaret Markey. This message may be customized and sent to Assembly members directly from the conference’s Web site.

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