Local advocate is confident Pa. lawmakers will open window for abuse lawsuits

Mark Abrams
February 10, 2019 - 4:00 am

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- A nationally-recognized advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse is confident Pennsylvania state legislators will act by the end of the year to open a window for abuse lawsuits.

Nearly two weeks ago, the New York state legislature passed and Gov. Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act.

It opens a one-year-window for adult survivors of sex abuse in that state to sue the perpetrators and the institutions who employed them. All private and public institutions - not just the Catholic Church.

And while some close to the issue say what happens in New York, doesn't affect the Keystone State, Marci Hamilton, a Penn law professor who founded Philadelphia-based Child USA, says it will.

In December, the top Pennsylvania Senate leader held up a bill which had passed the state House to open a two-year-window for abuse victims.

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He claimed it would violate the state's constitution and held it up until the legislative session expired.

Hamilton and others in the fight for victims say they have their doubts.

"Lawmakers often don't really pay a lot of attention to the constitutionality issue unless they're trying to find some excuse not to vote for a bill and I honestly think that's what's been happening here," she said.

Hamilton says the Garden State is ready to address the issue and pressure is continuing to mount on Harrisburg.

"It's my view that New Jersey will likely pass legislation that has a two-year window before Pennsylvania does,” she said. “But by fall, I would expect Pennsylvania to step up and mirror what's been happening in New York and New Jersey."