Individuals who desire to remain anonymous while pursuing lawsuits under the Child Victims Act recently won a significant victory in a Buffalo court. A woman who accused a former administrator at the Amherst Central School, of repeated indecent assault when she was a teen, has been permitted to continue her lawsuit without her name going public, as per a State Supreme Court decision by Justice Deborah A. Chimes.
This is the first local case wherein defendants in a Child Victims Act lawsuit attempted to force accusers’ names to be made public. Chimes’ ruling was a significant victory by two local attorneys Chris O’Brien and Paul K. Barr, who filed many lawsuits under the Child Victims Act. It’s a massive victory for victims of childhood indecent abuse as it protects anonymity while allowing defendants, an opportunity to defend themselves. The lawyers revealed that several local men and women who suffered molestation as children informed them about not filing lawsuits if their names were revealed.
A Positive Development
Under the Child Victims Act, hundreds of child abuse victims have filed lawsuits in New York, as a new state law allows state resident survivors of childhood indecent abuse, to summon their perpetrator to court as previously they were barred from doing so due to the statutes of limitations. Lawsuits filed were against a number of hospitals and schools, Jeffrey Epstein’s estate, the Catholic Church, and the Boy Scouts. The Child Victims Act signed into law in February, 2019 permits prosecutors to file criminal charges against their alleged abusers until the plaintiff turns 28, but has options to file civil lawsuits until they reach 55. In addition, the ‘lookback window’ allows an accuser of any age to file charges against their alleged tormentors, no matter when the abuse occurred, but for one year only. Two NY legislators spearheading this new law, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou and state Senator Alessandra Biaggi, are survivors of childhood indecent abuse.
Case by Case Approach
Barr mentions a middle-aged Buffalo-area woman who sued anonymously, and claimed that John “Jack” Koch, a former school administrator from Amherst repeatedly molested her in the 1980s, when she was only 14 years old. Attorneys for the Amherst school were provided the plaintiff’s name but were prevented from publicizing it. Defendant lawyers argue that if taxpayer funds are involved, the public has the right to know the accusers’ names. If taxpayer money is involved, public interest would benefit from open disclosure in such litigations, including the plaintiff names, as argued by Julia Hilliker, the Kenmore-Tonawanda and Amherst school districts attorney, in more than 30 Child Victims Act cases where young students were molested by Arthur Werner, a retired teacher.
Judge Chimes was sympathetic to the school districts’ argument, but felt that victims of childhood indecent abuse were reluctant to file charges if their names were publicized. She affirmed that the Child Victims Act aimed to open wide the doors and windows of Justice to unwilling victims. Since the September of 2019, more than 300 victims filed lawsuits under Child Victims Acts in West New York, alleging molestation in heart-wrenching abuse stories as children by school teachers, administrators, priests or any other adult authoritative figure. In 70% of those cases, the plaintiffs preferred their names being kept secret.