Bill to extend deadlines for sex-abuse lawsuits gets second try

Published: Monday, Jan. 27, 2014 - 5:50 pm

A three-page veto message from Gov. Jerry Brown isn’t stopping Sen. Jim Beall from his effort to allow victims of molestation more time to sue their abusers.

The San Jose Democrat said Monday that he plans to introduce two new bills on the issue later this week, despite the unusually long veto message his Senate Bill 131 got from the governor last year. In rejecting Beall’s measure to extend the statute of limitations for civil suits against abusers, Brown wrote that limiting the window of time for seeking retribution goes back to Roman law and is an issue of basic fairness.

SB 131 was one of the most heavily lobbied bills of 2013, with the political arm of the Catholic Church working hard to defeat it. Opponents argued the bill unfairly went after abusers in the private sector while not allowing victims of public institutions any additional opportunity to sue. Supporters said the extra time would allow people who had suppressed memories to seek justice when they are recovered.

Beall said his new bills – one addressing criminal law, the other civil law – include some major changes he hopes will satisfy the governor. Instead of opening up an opportunity for past victims to sue their abusers, the new bills would address future cases. The bill changing the civil statute of limitations would apply to both public and private entities, and change the current age cutoff from 26 to 40 for victims to sue.

“Hopefully he’ll find more agreement with these two bills that look forward prospectively in terms of the statute-of-limitation laws, similar to Minnesota, Illinois, Florida and other states, as opposed to the previous bill, which looked backward,” Beall said.

“These two bills both apply to any and all people, not public versus private. That issue has been dealt with in these two bills.”

Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the Catholic Church and other nonprofits that opposed SB 131 last year – including private colleges and swim and gymnastics clubs – said it’s too soon for the group to have a position on Beall’s latest effort.

“Until I see the whole thing in context, I’m really not in a position to say,” Eckery said. “We have to see what shape the legislation is in.”

Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall.

Read more articles by Laurel Rosenhall

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