Child Victims Act Passes Assembly; Battle Shifts to Senate

ALBANY -

Legislation to make it easier for abuse victims to seek criminal charges or file lawsuits against schools that hired their abusers passed the New York state Assembly Tuesday for the second year in a row, though prospects in the Republican-controlled state Senate remain dim.

The bill passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly 124-9, including a yes vote by Assemblyman Dov Hikind. Michael Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Long Island, argued that the bill was aimed at the heart of the Catholic Church.

Current law gives victims 90 days to file civil cases or seek criminal charges. Under the Child Victims Act, according to the Daily News, victims could file civil suits until age 50 and seek criminal charges until age 23. The bill would also create a one-year window allowing victims to file civil lawsuits against schools now barred by the existing statute of limitations.

The provisions allowing the seeking of criminal charges against the perpetrator are widely supported. But institutions including Agudath Israel of America, the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church have strongly opposed the part lifting the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits against the school, who say it could cause catastrophic financial harm.

In a last-minute change, sponsors included public schools in the bill. Private institutions have complained that they were being singled out.