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Group Presses for Quicker Resolution of Child Victims Act Cases, Claiming Backlog

by Brian Lee

A coalition that involves attorneys who represent survivors of childhood sexual abuse is pressing for quicker resolutions of court cases filed under New York’s Child Victims Act, claiming the backlog of thousands of unresolved cases warrants a specialized court to move those cases along.

However, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration on Thursday disputed the extent of the backlog, saying court leaders are in fact prioritizing these complicated cases that often involve decades-old allegations.

The Coalition for Just and Compassionate Compensation, which publicized its letter to Chief Administrative Judge Joseph Zayas on Wednesday, said five years after the CVA’s passage, an estimated 94% of survivors still await their day in court, prolonging their suffering and trauma.

Data cited by the coalition, whose membership consists of prominent CVA attorneys Hillary Nappi, a partner in Hach Rose Schirripa & Cheverie, and James Marsh and Jeff Herman, includes CVA cases in bankruptcy proceedings.

The coalition asked to meet with Zayas to address the concern.

“The intent of the CVA was to offer a legal avenue for survivors to seek justice and hold accountable those responsible for the heinous acts committed against them,” the coalition’s letter said. “Unfortunately, the current pace at which these cases are being processed is undermining the very purpose of this important legislation. Survivors are feeling re-victimized by the slow-moving legal process, and some have even passed away before seeing their cases addressed.”

The letter goes on to acknowledge cases may have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“However, as the state moves forward, it is crucial that the judiciary prioritizes the resolution of CVA cases,” the coalition asserted.

OCA spokesman Al Baker indicated the backlog is not as severe as the coalition’s letter suggests, with many cases in a holding pattern through no fault of the courts.

“The Unified Court System considers the effective, efficient handling of these cases as among its highest priorities and embraces its responsibility in expeditiously resolving them,” Baker said in a statement to the Law Journal on Thursday.

“Survivors of these traumas, and their loved ones, deserve nothing less. These particular matters are often quite complex with allegations that are sometimes decades old and that cross over into other venues such as federal bankruptcy court. We appreciate the Coalition’s advocacy and work surrounding these matters. We point out that over 21% of the CVA matters filed with the court since the statute went into effect have been fully disposed and another 18% have been stayed, with the overwhelming number of those stayed cases pending action in bankruptcy court for years.”

Baker also noted the court system’s CVA coordinating judges continue to address the remaining pending cases, to move them to trial or disposition as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, the coalition says a specialized court is needed solely for CVA cases, among other measures.

It also said the courts could move cases along by expediting trial dates for as many cases as possible, assigning additional judges and court staff to handle CVA cases, and implementing a system for regular status updates on CVA cases.

In May, the coalition said more than 10,000 child sex abuse survivors were waiting for their cases to be resolved, and it called on New York State Attorney General Letitia James to investigate Chubb Insurance, the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurer, which has said it doesn’t owe any obligation for survivors with cases against the Archdiocese of New York.

Under the Chubb umbrella, insurers across the state continually refuse to provide coverage for CVA cases against religious institutions, schools, hospitals and counties, among other entities.

The archdiocese blasted Chubb Insurance’s refusal for coverage.

Lawmakers passed the CVA in 2019. It temporarily suspended the statute of limitations to allow victims of childhood sexual assaults to sue abusers or institutions. California and other states have enacted similar laws.

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