Judges find child sexual abuse law unconstitutional – The North State Journal

The North Carolina Supreme Court building in Raleigh (file)

RALEIGH – A North Carolina law cannot temporarily lift the statute of limitations to allow people who were sexually assaulted as children decades ago to sue in civil court, a panel ruled on Monday. three judges.

The measure, which had been passed by the state legislature unanimously in 2019, was designed to help child victims of sexual abuse prosecute the people who assaulted them and the groups who allowed it to happen, reported The News & Observer of Raleigh.

Among other aspects, the law allowed any victim of sexual abuse to bring legal action in 2020 or 2021, even though it would normally have been barred because the statute of limitations had already expired.

But the judges ruled 2-1 that the change was unconstitutional.

The two majority judges, Gregory Horne and Imelda Pate, wrote that previous case law says that the state constitution prohibits the legislature from reopening the limitation period, even for “meritorious causes of action.”

The justices stressed they felt bound by the precedent and suggested the question might be better suited to the North Carolina Supreme Court instead of the panel.

Justice Martin McGee dissented. He said the legislature can make such a change – provided it passes the legal test of whether the change has a rational basis.

Other parts of the law, such as a section requiring teacher training to detect signs of potential victims of abuse, or a section criminalizing failure to report child abuse to authorities, does not. have not been contested, the newspaper reported.

The bill had gone through the Republican-controlled General Assembly with the support of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as well as Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein. Lawmakers have worked to rewrite several sex crimes laws in North Carolina following a spate of nationwide abuse scandals involving the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America.

Stein had publicly urged victims to use the new law to go to court. It was not immediately clear whether the decision would be appealed.

“I am disappointed with this decision,” Stein told the newspaper in a written statement. “I continue to believe this is constitutional and will continue to defend the law if the decision is appealed.”

Comments are closed.