On Wednesday, we've posted a blog commentary on protecting public school children in comparison to the flurry of bills passed by the state legislature. It took several hours of volunteer man hours to research the stories, piece together the facts and state our thesis which we believed to be fair policy. When the post was first published in the morning, we've mentioned that one bill, SB 131, which would increase the statute of limitations for young adults abused as children to file lawsuits against private organizations would not apply to claims filed against actual criminals. Wrong.
Thanks to a tip a few hours later, just before we were to share the post on Twitter and Facebook, we digged deeper into the actual legal analysis of SB 131 as volunteer laymen and found that our original research was based on faulty news data. The California Council of Nonprofit Organizations for example said the bill "gives civil immunity from prosecution to the actual perpetrators of child sex abuse." and this similar opinion piece reported likewise. We therefore assumed that this was correct. However, the official bill analysis suggests otherwise. Under the comments of the need to revive time-barred claims, the document states this:
This bill would extend the statute of limitations for bringing an action based on childhood sex abuse to 43 years of age, and also allow a victim to bring a action within five years from the day a mental health practitioner communicates the causal connection between the injury occuring as an adult and the sexual abuse experienced as a child, whichever occurs later. This bill would apply these time limits retroactively, and create a one year window in which victims who are over the age of 43 but made the required causal connection after 2004, may bring a claim. This one year window should allow individuals, like the Quarry brothers, who are over the maximum age allowed by the statute of limitations, but who made the causal connection after the one year window created by SB 1779 (Burton and Escutia, Ch. 149, Stats. 2002), to bring a case against an abuser or third party (see Background). It should be noted that the revival of actions against perpetrators or third parties only assures that a claim would be heard on its merits. Any other applicable defense would not be affected, and plaintiffs would still have to prove all elements of their case.
So, according to the state government, SB 131 would extend the time limits for a victim to file a suit against a specific criminal. So here's the lesson for all of us. Always double check the facts before making a statement, and correct and admit whenever a fact is stated in error. As human beings, we all make mistakes, even the folks who report the news. Heck, even the official analysis stated above had a typo with the word "occurring" spelled with one "r".
We know such mistakes are embarrassing and annoying because many concerned citizens and top leaders who follow The Transit Coalition depend on our fact-based positions to be accurate.
By the way, we've got a big reaction from our analysis of SB 131 from readers and it appears there is a strong debate flowing in from both sides; so please continue to post comments directly to this blog or provide us tips to sources. For the record, we did not take a formal yes/no position on this bill as a transit advocacy group, but we are doing what we can to expose both its merits and its issues into the court of public opinion as the outcome will affect all of us. The response has been tremendous and the debate productive. Please continue to post constructive comments on this topic and any other policy matters you may run across.