|Posted:||February 1, 2021 11:59 AM|
|From:||Senator Katie J. Muth and Sen. Maria Collett, Sen. Timothy P. Kearney, Sen. Lindsey M. Williams, Sen. Steven J. Santarsiero|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Establishing a Statutory Civil Window for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Assault|
|In the near future, we will be introducing legislation that would statutorily establish a 2-year civil window for survivors of childhood sexual assault with expired claims to bring suit against their abusers.
Last session, the legislature passed House Bill 963, a joint resolution that should have initiated the constitutional amendment process. This process requires that the same language be passed by the General Assembly in 2 consecutive legislative sessions. It also requires the Department of State to properly advertise joint resolution after each passage by the General Assembly. Following the first passage, the joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment must be published and advertised three months before the next general election. Pa. Const. Article XI, section 1. Following the second passage by the General Assembly, the joint resolution, proposing a constitutional amendment must be published and advertised 3 months before a primary, municipal or general election.
However, due to a failure to properly advertise after the first passage, the clock will now have to be restarted by the second passage this session, forcing survivors of childhood sexual assault to endure another 2 years at minimum before receiving this pathway to justice.
In the previous session, the legislature debated whether a constitutional amendment was necessary to allow for a window for claims whose statutes of limitations had expired. Senator Kearney offered Amendment A03953 to House Bill 962, which would have established a statutory civil window for survivors of childhood sexual assault. This amendment was not adopted.
Since then, subsequent court cases have demonstrated the legality of providing a retroactive window statutorily, rather than through a constitutional amendment. The civil window is supported by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General and has been upheld in seven other states.
We cannot allow another 2 to 4 years to pass without providing relief and justice to these survivors. We call upon the members of the General Assembly to provide that relief now by passing this legislation with urgency.