Ruling against Prince Andrew is another win for Child Victims Act lookback window, experts say

Ruling against Prince Andrew is another win for Child Victims Act lookback window, experts say

“The defendant is not the first litigant to make this argument, which has been rejected by every state and federal court in New York for having encountered it,” the federal judge wrote in the 46-page decision. “And it’s been repeatedly rejected for good reason.”

The concise rejection represents a clear message from the courts: the Child Victims Act, the basis of Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit against Prince Andrew, is here to stay.

“I see this decision as very important, as another step in terms of real recognition of the right of survivors to really take their case to court,” said Liz Roberts, CEO of Safe Horizon, which has advocated for the law for decades. years.

Enacted in 2019, the Child Victims Act created a one-year look-back window – later extended to two years due to the pandemic – during which victims of child sexual abuse could bring civil action against a person or institution, no matter how much time had elapsed since the abuse. The law also extended the statute of limitations for potential cases of child sexual abuse in the future.
Previously, child sexual abuse cases in New York could not be prosecuted more than five years after the crime and civil suits had to be filed within three years of the victim’s 18th birthday.

The idea behind the Child Victims Act was that many victims of child sexual abuse take years to speak publicly about their trauma, and this Act would give them the opportunity to finally have their day in court.

“For many survivors, this feels like a chance to have some sort of public social acknowledgment of the terrible abuse they have suffered, to confront the person who harmed them, or the institution, and to really say the truth about what happened to them, and in some cases to receive compensation for what they went through,” Roberts said.

The look-back window opened in August 2019 and closed in August 2021. More than 10,600 child sexual abuse lawsuits were filed in New York during this period, according to the courts spokesperson of New York, Lucian Chalfen.

One of those plaintiffs was Giuffre, who filed suit during the last week of the lookback period. In her lawsuit, Giuffre alleged that Prince Andrew sexually assaulted her when she was underage at Jeffrey Epstein’s home in Manhattan, on Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands and at the London home of the relative. associate of Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell.

Prince Andrew has denied the allegations. He can always choose to appeal the decision.

Epstein, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to prostitution charges in the state, was charged with federal sex trafficking in July 2019 and died by suicide in prison a month later. Maxwell, his former girlfriend, was arrested a year later and charged with facilitating Epstein’s abuse scheme. A jury convicted her in late December of five federal counts, including sex trafficking of a minor and conspiracy.

Why the judge upheld the Child Victims Act

The prince’s lawyers had lobbied for Giuffre’s lawsuit to be thrown out and made several arguments to do so. One was that the Child Victims Act was unconstitutional because it violated due process rights for those accused of wrongdoing.
The law has already been upheld by other judges, including in May 2020 in a lawsuit against the Diocese of Rockville Center on Long Island.

In his ruling Wednesday, Kaplan cited a handful of cases in which judges had rejected that constitutional argument. He described the Child Victims Act’s retrospective window as a “reasonable measure to remedy an injustice and well within the bounds of the new legal standard articulated shortly before it was passed”.

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Barry Salzman, a lawyer who has represented survivors of pro bono sexual abuse in cases against the clergy and Epstein, said such look-back windows, also known as statutes of limitation reinstatement laws, have long been considered as constitutional. The prince’s argument against the law will fail, he told CNN.

“Honestly, I don’t think that’s a very strong argument and I don’t think it will ever be overturned,” he said.

Salzman welcomed the judge’s decision and said he was happy to see the case move forward.

“As a lawyer who has defended victims for so many years, I’m really happy to see legislation like the CVA that has really empowered all of these survivors to have their day in court,” he said. he declares. “I think it really speaks to a greater openness or acceptance in our society to believe these people.”

Roberts also said Safe Horizon had advocated for the law for a decade, and lawyers had closely crafted the law’s language. She said the argument that the defendants would lose due process was “specious”.

“All the law does is give them the opportunity to go to court. They still have to prove their case,” she said. “The defendant has access to all the usual protections in court as a defendant in a lawsuit.”

CNN’s Sonia Moghe and Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.