Are sex abuse claims against clergy beyond statute of limitations?

By Krystal Paco
Kuam News
November 15, 2017

[with video]

Is it too little too late? Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood will have to decide if a 2016 law that lifted the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases covers all expired claims. The issue comes as defense for Archbishop Anthony Apuron motions for dismissal. At stake: the nearly 150 clergy sexual abuse lawsuits filed to date, both in the local and federal courts.

If the legislature intended to lift the civil statute of limitations for all child sexual abuse cases, they didn't do it right.

This according to Attorney Jacque Terlaje's reading of Public Law 33-187, the legislation that enabled the close to 150 clergy sexual abuse lawsuits filed in both the local and federal courts to date.

Terlaje represents Archbishop Anthony Apuron.

Though only four of the lawsuits name Apuron as an abuser, how Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood rules in these cases impacts all the others.

Wednesday's hearing addressed defense's objection to Magistrate Judge Joaquin Manibusan's report and recommendation to deny defense's motion to dismiss.

Terlaje urged the Chief Judge to look at the law's language noting the legislature should've been more specific in their 2016 law if their intent was a 100-percent lift of the statute of limitations.

Terlaje stated "the law in front of the court only corrected the 2011 law."

That law, if you recall, opened a window for victims to file their claims, but provisions in that law kept anyone from filing.

Defense further argued that statutes of limitations are designed to promote justice.

Her client, who has asserted his innocence, will have difficulty defending himself from 40-year-old claims due to loss of memory, witnesses, and evidence.

Plaintiffs' attorney Gregory Nicolaysen via telephone argued there was no need to be specific in the 2016 law - the legislature cited the 2011 law because that statute revived all the previous expired claims.

"I don't think there's any ambiguity at all in the 2016 law... this was done with yesterday's children in mind," he added.

As for the special hardships defense cited, Nicolaysen argued that the tragedy is that the passage of time has only been "detrimental to the victim, not the offender" and further alleging that had there been witnesses in Apuron's defense, they too may have been involved in child sexual abuse.

The Chief Judge has taken the matter under advisement.

A decision will be issued on December 31st in light of ongoing settlement talks.


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