NATIONAL NEWS

Louisiana Legislature opened window for sex abuse survivors to sue, but state’s high court shut it

Mar 26, 2024, 1:03 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Advocates for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse say they will ask Louisiana’s Supreme Court to reconsider a ruling that wiped out 2021 legislation giving them a renewed opportunity to file civil damage lawsuits over their molestation.

The ruling bucked a trend. Advocates say 24 other states have laws, upheld as constitutional, that revived the right to sue for people abused as children. Until last week’s 4-3 decision in New Orleans, Utah was the only state where such a law was found unconstitutional.

Richard Trahant, an attorney who handles cases for sex abuse victims, said Monday that the Louisiana high court will be asked to reconsider its Friday ruling. “Respectfully, any one, or all four of the justices in the majority should change their votes and move to the right side of history and the law.”

Richard Windmann, president of the group Survivors of Childhood Sex Abuse, said proponents of the law would go the U.S. Supreme Court.

Another possible avenue mentioned by advocates would be to amend the state constitution, which would require approval from two-thirds of the state House and Senate and approval from voters statewide.

“We are sure as hell NOT giving up!” Kathryn Robb, executive director of Child USAdvocacy, said in an email.

It was unclear how many people would be affected by the ruling. Trahant said he expects the Archdiocese of New Orleans will seek to “disallow or minimize” many the more than 500 claims tied up in an archdiocese bankruptcy case.

“As far as new lawsuits that have not been filed yet, that number is harder to quantify,” Trahant said. “We have had some cases in a holding pattern for three years, and it has been an excruciating wait for those victim-survivors. ”

The law upended by last week’s decision was passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2021 and amended in 2022. It gave victims of past abuse, whose deadlines for filing a civil lawsuit had expired, until June of this year to file. At the time, its chief sponsor, Rep. Jason Hughes, a New Orleans Democrat, cited research that showed the average age for child sex abuse victims to report the crimes is 52.

Friday’s decision came in a case filed against the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette by plaintiffs who said they were molested by a priest in the 1970s while they ranged in age from 8 to 14, according to the Supreme Court record.

Supreme Court Justice James Genovese, writing for the majority of the court, said the law conflicted with due process rights in the state constitution. Upholding it, he wrote, would would “upend nearly a half of a century’s jurisprudence” holding that the protection against lawsuits once a time limit had passed was a right that couldn’t be taken away “ despite the sickening and despicable factual allegations in this case ….”

Justices Scott Crichton, Jefferson Hughes and Piper Griffin voted with the majority.

Chief Justice John Weimer dissented, saying the majority “does not attempt to examine, much less explain, how due process is violated in this instance.”

Justices Jay McCallum and William Crain also dissented.

Advocates said the ruling exacerbated longstanding emotional trauma.

“A lot of survivors are really triggered and really upset about what happened.” John Anderson of suburban New Orleans said Monday. Anderson, 57, said he was victimized four decades ago by a now-deceased Catholic deacon in the New Orleans area and has long been active in moves to hold church officials accountable.

“I fielded hundreds of victim-survivor phone calls since Friday, in various states of mental distress,” Windmann said. “After all they went through, again they are re-traumatized, re-victimized.”

National News

Associated Press

Biden and Trump accuse each other of weakening America’s foreign policy. Here are the facts

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a relative rarity for presidential elections, both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have long records on foreign policy and clearly stated positions on many of the world’s hot spots. Trump’s allies at the Republican National Convention are expected to argue that Biden has weakened America’s standing abroad and […]

2 minutes ago

FILE - Turbines operate at the Block Island Wind Farm, Dec. 7, 2023, off the coast of Block Island,...

Associated Press

Blade collapse, New York launch and New Jersey research show uneven progress of offshore wind

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Three events Wednesday highlighted the uneven progress of the offshore wind industry in the Northeast, including the start of a major project in New York, research aimed at preventing environmental damage in New Jersey, and a temporary shutdown of a wind farm in Massachusetts after a broken turbine blade washed […]

14 minutes ago

Associated Press

New York City councilwoman arrested for allegedly biting officer during protest, police say

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City councilwoman was arrested Wednesday for allegedly biting a police officer during a chaotic protest over the construction of a new homeless shelter in Brooklyn, police said. The councilwoman, Susan Zhuang, is being charged with assault, resisting arrest and obstruction, a police spokeswoman said. Zhuang’s office did not […]

15 minutes ago

FILE - A TV screen shows a file image of American soldier Travis King during a news program at the ...

Associated Press

Army private who fled to North Korea is in talks to resolve military charges, lawyer says

WASHINGTON (AP) — A lawyer for an Army private who fled to North Korea and was later charged with desertion and possessing sexual images of a child said Wednesday that he was in negotiations with military prosecutors to resolve the case against his client. Army Pvt. Travis King had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing […]

20 minutes ago

Associated Press

Mother of 3-year-old found dead at recycling center feared ex-husband would harm daughter

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The mother of a 3-year-old girl whose body was found in a San Francisco Bay Area recycling center over the weekend said Tuesday she feared for her daughter’s well-being whenever the child was with her ex-husband, who authorities said died by suicide and is suspected in the child’s death. San Jose […]

27 minutes ago

FILE - Visitors to Point Woronzof Park watch the sun set over Cook Inlet and Mount Susitna, on June...

Associated Press

US judge suspends Alaska Cook Inlet lease, pending additional environmental review

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A federal judge has suspended the lease stemming from a 2022 oil and gas sale in Alaska’s Cook Inlet basin after finding problems with the environmental review it was based on. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason, in a decision Tuesday, found the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management failed in […]

43 minutes ago

Louisiana Legislature opened window for sex abuse survivors to sue, but state’s high court shut it