By Victoria Merlino
Two law firms say they are suing the Boy Scouts of America, the New York Archdiocese and the Diocese of Brooklyn over “secret files” that they claim would reveal “decades worth of evidence” about alleged child sex abusers.
Marsh Law Firm PLLC and Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC say they will represent 550 people who claim they were abused by Catholic Church and Boy Scout leaders.
The attorneys say the lawsuits and formal discovery requests will uncover what they call the Catholic Church’s “secret files” and the Boy Scouts’ “ineligible volunteer files,” including information on each of the alleged perpetrators and on each allegation of sexual abuse.
The lawsuits are made possible by the one-year “lookback” window opened by the Child Victims Act. The landmark law’s lookback period enables survivors of child sexual abuse to sue their abusers or the institutions that enabled them, regardless of when the crime was committed.
On the first day of the CVA, more than 400 lawsuits were filed statewide, including six in Queens. One lawyer told the Eagle that he was filing 66 lawsuits against the Diocese of Brooklyn, which also serves Queens.
“For decades, institutions like the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts have refused to acknowledge the abuse they allowed to occur under their watch, while hiding their ‘secret files’ behind lock and key,” said Marsh Law Firm’s Jennifer Freeman in a statement. Freeman represents hundreds of people filing lawsuits under the new law.
“But thanks to the CVA, survivors finally have the right and the power to get at the truth. Starting today, these institutions are on notice – they can try to deny their complicity, but the real and unvarnished story will come out in court,” she continued.
“Institutions that harbored child sex abusers have had countless opportunities to come clean and release their ‘secret files’ on abusers within their ranks,” added Michael Pfau of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala in a statement. “By serving these lawsuits and beginning the discovery process, we’ll finally be able to access the files that hold the key to holding these institutions accountable.”
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Brooklyn told the Eagle that the institution would “never stop fighting sexual abuse.”
“Sexual abuse is a heinous crime, and victim-survivors now have a new avenue to seek redress through the Child Victims Act,” the spokesperson said. “We will never stop supporting those who need healing and will forever work to restore the faith of those we have failed.”
“Consistent with our commitment to protecting Scouts and upholding our values as an organization, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) strongly supports efforts to ensure that anyone who commits sexual abuse is held accountable,” The Boy Scouts of America said in a statement to the Eagle. “First and foremost, we care deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children. We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward. It is BSA policy that all incidents of suspected abuse are reported to law enforcement.”
They continued by saying that they have taken “significant” steps to respond to reports of abuse, including more youth protection education, criminal background checks for leaders and mandating that two trained adults be with the children at all times, among other precautions.
The New York Archdiocese did not immediately return a request for comment.