Roman Catholic Diocese Argues Against Waiver of Statue of Limitation for Abuse

( – On Thursday, November 9th, a representative from the law firm representing 100 plaintiffs described Maine’s removal of time limits on child sex abuse lawsuits as a victory for the people. This contrasts with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland’s claim that the law is unconstitutional and introduces new liabilities. The diocese referenced expensive lawsuits that have led some dioceses to go bankrupt.

Attorney Michael Bigos informed the court that there has never been a right to enable child sex abuse and asserted that the diocese is seeking to establish a vested right in avoiding accountability for such actions.

The Supreme Judicial Court convened a packed hearing at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor, where arguments emphasized the significance of its forthcoming decision.

Roman Catholic dioceses in New York, Baltimore, Buffalo, and other locations have sought bankruptcy protection due to the financial strain caused by lawsuits and settlements related to the clergy abuse scandal.

Several lawsuits have been filed in Maine after the statute of limitations was lifted. However, these cases remain in abeyance as they await the resolution of the legal challenge regarding the law’s constitutionality.

Maine removed its time limits for filing lawsuits related to childhood sexual abuse in 2000; however, this change was not applied retroactively. Consequently, survivors were left without a legal recourse for older cases spanning several decades.

Modifications made in 2021 extended the timeframe for previously expired civil claims, enabling several abuse survivors to pursue legal actions. Attorney Bigos, from Berman & Simmons, represents approximately 100 survivors, many of whom have already filed lawsuits. Bigos said 75 were linked to the Roman Catholic Church in several cases.

The Portland diocese argues that although survivors had enough time to file lawsuits, they also believed it was unlawful to allow new legal actions, which it previously said could lead to millions of dollars in damages.

Portland Diocese attorney Gerald Petruccelli explained that a 1981 decision in previous case law concluded that ‘the Legislature doesn’t have the constitutional authority to pass laws if their enforcement interferes with existing rights.

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