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Louisiana State Supreme Court strikes down child sex abuse law

The Louisiana State Supreme Court has issued an opinion on a law impacting victims of child sex abuse. The court's opinion Friday, says the so-called "Lookback Law" is unconstitutional. The ruling comes as a crucial three-year lookback window is about to expire.

Democratic state Sen. Jay Luneau of Pineville said the lookback window giving victims more time to sue was passed three years ago. Luneau has filed Senate Bill 246, which he said extends the deadline for sex abuse survivors to file from June 14, 2024, to June 14, 2027.

The legal team of Douglas Bienvenu, who is suing the catholic church over allegations of sex abuse, issued the following statement:

"Today, four of the seven Louisiana Supreme Court justices overruled a law passed by a unanimous Louisiana legislature, signed by then Governor Edwards, supported by then-Attorney General Jeff Landry, and current Attorney General Liz Murrill. This law was upheld by a trial judge and a majority of the court of appeal. That’s nearly 200 elected officials who viewed this law as being constitutional. Four elected officials just obliterated that. They cannot fathom the excruciating pain this decision has heaped upon adults who were raped as children and already suffer a life sentence. Justice Will Crain said it best in his dissent: 'Absent a constitutional violation, which defendants have not established, the forum for this debate is the legislature, not this court. The legislature had that debate and — without a single dissenting vote — abolished the procedural bar and restored plaintiffs’ right to sue. I would affirm the trial court’s judgment finding this legislative action constitutional.'"

Attorney Kristi Schubert, who represents sexual abuse victims, also issued a statement in response, saying:

“Childhood sexual abuse survivors in Louisiana are devastated by this ruling. Once again, they are being silenced. Meanwhile child molesters, and the organizations that enable and protect child molesters, are rejoicing. The ruling shields wrongdoers from the consequences of their own evil actions. This decision gives child molesters the right to escape responsibility for the damage they inflicted upon innocent children. Even worse, the ruling treats the supposed “right” of a child molester to escape responsibility as sacrosanct. It places it above every single other right the citizens of Louisiana have. In ruling this way, the Louisiana Supreme Court has broken with over 100 years of precedent from United States Supreme Court holding that laws like the Lookback Window do not violate the Due Process Clause or any other clause of U.S. Constitution. The United States Supreme Court ruled long ago that state legislatures do have the right to revive previously time-barred claims.

Most of the childhood sexual abuse survivors who will be affected by this decision lost their chance at justice while they were still children. Under the old draconian laws in place back then, child victims were required to file lawsuits within one year of the sexual abuse. This means that if a child was sexually abused at 5 years old, they would have needed to file a lawsuit by the time they turned six, or they would forever lose their chance for justice. It is now well known that these harsh time limits were unfair and unreasonable. Research shows that the average age at which a childhood sexual abuse survivor first comes forward is 52.

Research by the federal government has estimated that the lifetime economic burden of childhood sexual abuse in the United States is $9.3 billion. Right now, this burden is being shouldered by the abuse victims and the taxpayers.

The Lookback Window would have placed that financial burden of childhood sexual abuse where it belongs: on the shoulders of child molesters and the organizations that promote and protect pedophiles. This ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court ensures that the abuse survivors and the Louisiana taxpayers will continue to pay the costs for the evil acts of the true wrongdoers.”

On April 5, Attorney General Liz Murrill provided the following update:

“Today, my team filed a rehearing application urging the Louisiana Supreme Court to rehear its decision foreclosing child victims of sexual abuse from suing to vindicate their rights. Our brief explains that this case raises serious concerns about the separation of powers and the proper judicial role. We are hopeful that the Court will agree, take a second look, and give these victims their day in court. I will continue to show my support for victims of sexual assault.”

- Attorney General Liz Murrill

Richard C. Trahant, Soren E. Gisleson, John H. Denenea, Jr., Kevin R. Duck, and Clemille J. Simon, attorneys for plaintiffs issued the following statement:

“The victim-survivors who brought this case and their lawyers sincerely appreciate the application for rehearing filed by the Attorney General and Solicitor General of Louisiana. They speak for the State of Louisiana and the content of their brief is profound and significant. And like the unanimous Louisiana Legislature, they unreservedly support victims of child sexual abuse.”


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