Baltimore Archdiocese Lawsuits Over Child Sexual Abuse Will Face Immediate Appeals After New Maryland Law Takes Effect

Maryland Attorney General is prepared to defend the constitutionality of removing the statute of limitations for Maryland child sexual abuse lawsuits against the Baltimore Archdiocese and other organizations.

A new law will take effect in the state of Maryland this October, which eliminates the statute of limitations for all child sexual abuse lawsuits. This is expected to result in an influx of claims against the Baltimore Archdiocese and other organizations that have covered up instances of abuse or protected known predators for decades. However, the law contains a provision that allows defendants to immediately appeal it’s constitutionality, which will further delay justice until the Maryland Supreme Court weighs in.

The Maryland legislature passed the The Child Victims Act of 2023 with overwhelming support last month, and it was signed into law on April 11.

The new law goes into effect on October 1, entirely removing the statute of limitations for Maryland child sex abuse lawsuits, allowing survivors to pursue claims against their abusers and the institutions that enabled the conduct, regardless of how long ago the assault occurred.

While variations of the new law have been working through the state’s legislature for years, it was finalized just days after a long-awaited Baltimore Archdiocese child sex abuse report was released by the Maryland Attorney General, which detailed information about Catholic priests that abused children in Maryland over the last 60 years.

While it is expected that a large number of lawsuits will be brought shortly after the new law takes effect, the cases will likely face delays while the Maryland courts evaluation the constitutionality of allowing the Baltimore Archdiocese lawsuits to move forward so long after the abuse occurred.

The Maryland Child Victims Act includes a provision that an interlocutory appeal may be immediately pursued following any order denying a motion to dismiss based on a defense that the Maryland statute of limitations or statute of repose bars the claim, or that the legislative action reviving the claim is unconstitutional.

An interlocutory appeal allows the higher courts to consider the case before any final judgment is rendered in the trial court. While this measure will introduce substantial delays before survivors of sexual abuse are able to obtain justice, it will also avoid the need for each individual to recount their trauma at trial before the Maryland Supreme Court evaluates the constitutionality of the new law.

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown has already issued a letter, indicating that his office is prepared to support the constitutionality of The Child Victims Act, and believes the removal of the statute of limitations can be defended.

“I have reviewed the various past letters of advice from the Office of the Attorney General as well as legal evaluations from others. The materials contain well-researched analyses and reach a reasonable difference of prediction as to how the Maryland Supreme Court would decide the issue,” Brown wrote in a letter (PDF) to the Maryland Senate in February. “Accordingly, I conclude that, as Attorney General, I can make a good faith defense of the constitutionality of Senate Bill 686.”

Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023

For years, lawmakers attempted to change the Maryland child sex abuse statute of limitations, which currently prevents most survivors from pursuing lawsuits.

While several other states have passed laws in recent years that opened temporary “windows” for previously barred claims to now be pursued, the Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023 entirely removes any time limits on how long a survivor has to file a lawsuit over sexual abuse or assault when they were a child.

Supporters of the legislation argued that removing the Maryland statute of limitations on child sex abuse claims was necessary, since many survivors are not prepared to address the conduct until much later in life. In addition, the Catholic Church has been notorious for covering up credible allegations, discrediting child survivors of abuse and pressuring devoted families from pursuing any action against priests or other members of the clergy.

After a two year window in the New York child sex abuse statute of limitations was opened in 2020, tens of thousands of claims were brought against the Boy Scouts, Catholic Church and other entitles throughout the state. The Buffalo Diocese alone had at least 230 Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing minors, with eight specific priests accounting for more than 1,000 lawsuits filed in that part of the state.

While statute of limitations laws have also been enacted in a number of other states, including New Jersey, California and Louisiana, other states are still debating similar bills that would allow survivors to hold abusers and entities that enabled their conduct accountable.


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