Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 15, 2013 / 04:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- California Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed more decades-old sexual abuse charges against Catholic schools and other non-profit institutions, while exempting public schools where abuse took place.
Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson of Los Angeles, the president of the California Catholic Conference, said the bishops of the state are “grateful” that the bill was vetoed.
“It was unfair to the vast majority of victims and unfair to all private and non-profit organizations,” he said, adding that the bill “discriminated and treated victims unequally” in a way that was “impossible to morally or legally justify.”
The bill would have lifted the statute of limitations on child sex abuse lawsuits against private schools and private employers who failed to take action against sexual abuse by employees or volunteers. It would allow alleged victims younger than 31 to sue employers of abusers, extending present age limit for alleged victims from 26 years old.
However, S.B. 131 specifically exempted public schools and other government institutions from lawsuits.
Critics argued that this was unfair to Catholic and private schools, and that it failed to protect the vast majority – more than 90 percent – of California children who attend public schools.
The Wall Street Journal had criticized the proposed bill as a “nonprofit shakedown” targeting the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, and the “political enemies” of the legislature, where Democrats hold a supermajority of seats.
The bill also would have provided a one-year window for victims older than the new age limit to sue alleged negligent employers. This could have resulted in many new lawsuits concerning allegations dismissed after 2003, when the statute of limitations was previously suspended.
That suspension resulted in almost 1,000 claims against the Catholic Church in California, with legal awards totaling to $1.2 billion. Some of these claims dated back to the 1930s.
Gov. Brown explained his veto decision in a three-page Oct. 12 message to members of the State Senate. He argued that the bill’s policy of making private institutions “subject to suit indefinitely” while exempting public institutions is “simply too open-ended and unfair.”
He explained that legal cases alleging abuse make “valid and profoundly important claims,” but the statute of limitations is part of a legal tradition of “fairness.”
“There comes a time when an individual or organization should be secure in the reasonable expectation that past acts are indeed in (Read More)