Pennsylvania Legislative Update

During the 2007 session of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, 3 lawmakers sponsored and many others added their names as co-sponsors to legislation to modify or eliminate statutes of limitation for criminal and civil actions in Pennsylvania. These pieces of legislation, if approved, would have opened a window for victims of sexual abuse by serial pedophiles to seek justice and get to the truth about the full extent of the criminal activities of these predators and the people and organizations that protect them.

The first bill was Senate Bill 326 sponsored by Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr. of Senate District 44 (parts of Berks, Chester and Montgomery Counties). That bill sought to allow anyone who was victim of a crime before they reached the age of 14 may commence a civil action at any time during their life.

Senate Bill 553, sponsored by Senator Lisa Boscola of Senate District 18 (Parts of Monroe, Lehigh and Northampton Counties), expanded criminal statutes of limitations on certain crimes. Of note is the provision for prosecution of “Any sexual offense committee against a minor less than 18 years of age any time up to the later of the period of limitation provided by law after the minor has reached 18 years of age or the date the minor 50 years of age.”

The final bill was House Bill 1574 sponsored by Representative Douglas G. Reichley of House District 134 (parts of Berks and Lehigh Counties). This legislation can be called “Window” Legislation. Similar to laws passed in California and Delaware, this bill would have allowed a victim of childhood sexual abuse to commence a civil action, even if the statute of limitations had expired. This legislation allows a period of one year for those actions to be brought to a Pennsylvania Court from a date delineated in the legislation.

The three bills were sent to their respective Judiciary Committees where they were put on hold by the chairmen of those committees. The legislation never made it to the floor of either the Senate or the House in Harrisburg because special interests decided that victims of sexual abuse did not deserve to have the protection of the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and that serial pedophiles and organizations that have a history of protecting them should be protected.

The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Thomas R. Caltagirone of House District 127 (part of Berks County) is reported to have said that victims are just looking to get a quick buck in a settlement. He effectively killed the bill before him because he thinks that victims are greedy. I wonder if he has met with or answered correspondence from victims seeking the truth and some justice. I know he did not respond to an email I sent to his office asking for an explanation on why the bill before his committee did not get an up or down vote. I guess I could speculate that lobbyists for the Catholic Church and Insurance companies got to him. Perhaps he doesn’t mind that the intended or unintended consequence of his decision puts him in a position to support pedophiles and their protectors. One could speculate on his personal motives and interests just as he has speculated on those of victims. Get creative and let me know what you think motivates him.

As for the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf of Senate District 12, I would like to know why legislation died in his committee. I will be looking into that. If you are his constituent, why don’t you ask him. I would be fascinated to hear the logic involved.

I would be able to deal with a vote by the entire Assembly that defeats such legislation. I have great respect for the process when the process allows for a vote. But for one man to be able to kill the legislation, perhaps with a wink and a nod to the Bishops of Pennsylvania, is unacceptable and may be an act of cowardice. Constituents of the 127th House District and the 12th Senate must be so proud!

These bills died with the end of the 2007-2008 legislative session but they could be re-introduced for the 2009-2010 session. I spoke to the offices for the primary sponsors for these three bills and there was hope that these 3 courageous lawmakers would reintroduce the bills for consideration in the 2009-2010 legislative sessions.

If you live in Pennsylvania or you have an interest in justice, contact your Senator and Representative and tell them you support legislation that allow victims of serial pedophiles to seek redress for grievances in the criminal and civil courts in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

If you don’t know who your representative or senator may be in Pennsylvania, you can find out by going to the website for the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

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