Tag Archives: Child Abuse

There’s No “Normal” Way For A Clergy Abuse Or Sexual Assault Victim To Act

This post is cross-posted on the Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog. As Ralph Cipriano reported, the defense attorney for Father Brennan spent a lot of time cross-examining the prosecution's chief witness against Father Brennan by going into the alleged victim’s reaction to the molestation, including why the alleged victim — an adolescent boy at the time — did not call out to his mother afterwards, why the alleged victim took a subsequent motorcycle ride with Father Brennan, and why the alleged victim didn’t report the assault to authorities sooner. Father Brennan’s attorney, coincidentally named William Brennan, has an important job ... Continue Reading

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Monsignor Lynn And The Duty To Prevent Child Abuse

This post is cross-posted on our Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog, where investigative reporter Ralph Cipriano is covering the criminal trial of Monsignor Lynn. From the war on drugs to criminal copyright infringement, a number of commentators, legal scholars, politicians and even sitting judges have criticized the breadth of American criminal law, like the prevalence of non-violent or “victimless” crimes that don’t have a direct victim, and the Draconian mandatory penalties that are meted out, even where the judge and jury applying those laws think that less severe penalties would be appropriate. As a consequence of this “overcriminalization,” the United ... Continue Reading

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The Ethics Of Fighting An Expired Case In The Press

One of the points I stressed when writing about the Sandusky child abuse scandal at Penn State was the role of the statute of limitations: due to the timing of the last change in Pennsylvania's childhood sexual abuse statute, some of Sandusky's victims may be outside the time in which they can file a claim, while others can still file. Putting aside the efforts to extend the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania — long stalled thanks to the efforts of the Catholic Conference — there's the simple question for lawyers representing those victims: how do you advocate for a client ... Continue Reading

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Do Lawyers Defending The Catholic Church Live On Another Planet?

As I've mentioned before, I think the motivations that compel lawyers to deny reality while defending some clients are varied and complex, but it cannot be denied that, in many cases, the defense is premised not on providing explanations or raising genuine doubts, but on burying the truth. Lest we forget what brought us to the ongoing criminal trial of Monsignor William Lynn, here is how the grand jury report against him begins: In September 2003, a grand jury of local citizens released a report detailing a sad history of sexual abuse by priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. That ... Continue Reading

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The Legal Effect of Paterno’s Death

In less than three months, Joe Paterno went from one of the most revered figures in sports and a Pennsylvania institution to being implicated in a scandal, terminated from the job he had held for generations, and excoriated by the media to a historical figure who is no longer with us. He passed away over the weekend at the age of 85. A memento mori indeed. I did not attend Penn State, so I'll leave the remembrances to others. Paterno died, however, amidst a national scandal, two criminal prosecutions, and likely more than a dozen civil lawsuits to be filed. ... Continue Reading

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Sandusky Civil Law Update: Insurance, New Lawsuit, and the Preliminary Hearing

My post on the potential civil lawsuits arising from the Jerry Sandusky molestation scandal at PSU still generates a fair amount of traffic, mostly from people looking for updates on the latest legal developments. If the internet asks, it shall receive. There have been four major developments relating to the case: A preliminary hearing for the criminal charges against Tim Curley and Gary Schultz; The filing of another civil lawsuit against Sandusky, Penn State, and The Second Mile; The filing of a declaratory judgment action by Federal Insurance Company of New Jersey, the insurance company for The Second Mile, to obtain a ... Continue Reading

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Colleges and Universities Start To Take Campus Rape Seriously (We Hope)

The fallout from the child molestation scandal at Penn State continues with a thousand articles saying roughly the same thing and a handful of in-depth reports, like Sports Illustrated’s This is Penn State piece, which explains a lot about what Happy Valley was like: Outgoing, accessible (his home phone number is in the campus directory) and philanthropic, Paterno was the benevolent despot. But he was a despot nonetheless. Org chart be damned—unlike Schultz and Curley, Paterno is not classified as a senior staff member—he ran the place. "He built this university, he built this town, and everybody knows it," says ... Continue Reading

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Can Sandusky’s Sexual Abuse Victims Sue Penn State?

[UPDATE, July 12, 2012: The independent report by Louis Freeh's law firm has been released. It is damning, to say the least, concluding there was a "total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims." Blame is rightfully heaped upon Paterno, Spanier, Curley, and Schultz.] [UPDATE, June 22, 2012: Jerry Sandusky was convicted on almost all counts. Reuters quoted me talking about the effect of the prosecution and conviction on the civil lawsuits pre-verdict here and post-verdict here. Short version: Penn State, as I had hoped, is signaling their ... Continue Reading

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Can Jaycee Dugard Sue The Government For Negligent Parole Supervision?

I've written several times before how difficult it is to sue the government for failing to do its job, like how you can't sue the police department for failing to enforce a court order. It's tough to sue the government even when they wrongly entrap and then kill your son for the trivial 'crime' of sports betting. The government doesn't even need to train its prosecutors in the basics of constitutional law. "Civil rights" is a tough area in which to practice law, if you're representing the plaintiffs. There aren't "typical" civil rights cases, because typical isn't good enough under ... Continue Reading

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Can The West Memphis Three Sue For Wrongful Imprisonment?

The "West Memphis Three" have long been a cause célèbre, for good reason: the case had all the hallmarks of a railroad prosecution, from hysteria over Satanism to a coerced confession by a minor with a well below average I.Q. to the lack of any forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony connecting Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley to the brutal murder of three young boys in 1993. NPR's blog sums up much of the story: The original convictions, based on a theory that Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley killed the three children as part of a Satanic ritual, were the ... Continue Reading

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