Along with its one-year “window” for claims to be filed stretching back indefinitely in the past, it would also extend the statute of limitations in child sex abuse prosecutions, and the corresponding time limit on civil lawsuits.
The New York Catholic Conference, which represents the state's bishops, maintains that the indefinite retroactive lawsuit window – reviving, for one year, any claim previously considered too old to act on – should not be applied to any institution, religious or otherwise.
But it would support the changes in how newer cases are handled, if they applied equally to public and private institutions.
At present, New York state law imposes a five-year statute of limitations for civil claims, and many criminal prosecutions, involving child sex abuse. The time period begins either when the alleged victim turns 18, or when authorities receive a report of the incident, depending on which occurs first.
If Markey's bill passes, many lawsuits and prosecutions could be initiated up to five years later than that, a standard Poust says is fair in itself.
But a different, much more limited rule would still apply to lawsuits against public institutions.
“The state gives itself a bit of a 'pass,' and makes it tougher to sue itself. In New York, within 90 days of the offense you have to file something called a 'notice of claims' with the court, saying you intend to sue.”
“If you don't file that in a timely manner – within three months – then you can never bring a lawsuit against a state institution.”
A previous version of Markey's bill would have changed this, extending the time period for child sex abuse allegations to be brought against both public and private institutions. The present version, however, does not do so.
“The current bill would not impact public institutions, like public schools or juvenile justice facilities,” Poust pointed out. “It creates two classes of victims, depending on where the abuse occurred. That's just not good public policy.”
“Most non-familial abuse occurs in public schools, yet this bill by Assemblywoman Markey does nothing to help those victims,” he said.
“For her to say that this somehow addresses what happened at Penn State is a fallacy,” Poust pointed out. “That's a public institution. If Penn State were in New York, her bill would have no impact on it.”
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This double standard was not always Markey's intention, Poust recalled.
“Back in 2009, she did amend the bill to include public institutions,” Poust recalled. “That's the way the language of the bill read through 2010. And she has now explicitly gone back to the original bill, which excludes 'publics.'”
Poust said Markey made the reversal after pressure from public sector groups.
“The state association of school superintendents, the school board association, the conference of mayors, the association of counties – all these public associations came out against the bill, and it became toxic. It didn't have a chance.”
“She has no credibility to say that this bill is in any way fair. She acknowledged in 2009 that by including the public sector it was a better bill. And now, without explanation, she has gone back to the old bill.”
But even if Markey changed this portion of her bill, the New York Catholic Conference would maintain its objection to the one-year suspension of the statute of limitations.