Louisiana lawmaker files legislation after child sex abuse victims fear claims could unravel

WDSU [New Orleans]

March 8, 2024

By Aubry Killion

Legislation that gives victims of child sex abuse more time to sue heads to the Louisiana state capitol.

The session starts on Monday.

It comes as a crucial three year look back window is about to expire. Survivors are waiting on the Louisiana Supreme Court to rule if the law is constitutional.

Survivors fear a massive number of claims could unravel.

“This is all about holding perpetrators of sexual abuse on children responsible,” Sen. Jay Luneau said.

Luneau said the look back window giving victims more time to sue was passed three years ago.

Luneau filed Senate Bill 246 he said it extends the deadline for sex abuse survivors to file from June 14, 2024, to June 14, 2027.

“It affects any institution that is involved with children where there is abuse of children that occurred and most of those times, a blind eye was turned,” Luneau said. “This is not an anti-church bill; this is a bill that protects victims of sex abuse. That’s what it’s all about. The question here, in my mind, is do we protect the sex abuse victims or do we try to find some really narrow exception to rule this is unconstitutional? I don’t think that’s going to be the case. I think it’s clear what the legislative intent was the legislature has demonstrated they are going to protect children and sex abuse victims and demand transparency in regards to the failures of these institutions when child abuse occurs.”

This January the Diocese of Lafayette argued that the lookback law is unconstitutional.

“The plaintiffs in this case all six of them say the apple fell out of the tree and hit them on the head and they remembered something in the 1970’s that they never remembered before within a period of time to file a lawsuit,” an attorney representing the church said.

Experts say most survivors don’t come forward until between the ages of 50 to 70 years old. Many take it to their grave.

“I think anybody who doesn’t believe the Catholic Church has enabled and shielded pedophiles isn’t paying attention,” local attorney Kristi Schubert said. “This extension is absolutely necessary to bring justice to survivors and to prevent future child abuse. They could wait one day before the look-back window is closing, and rule that last day there would be no time for survivors to file suit. We don’t want the courts inundated with hundreds or thousands of lawsuits it would be pandemonium.”

Schubert said the constitutional challenges have tangled cases, silencing survivors.

“If the court strikes the look-back window down, pedophiles all over Louisiana will be celebrating,” Schubert said.

Schubert said after a civil claim is filed, more evidence can be revealed.

“A lot of information comes out there’s depositions sometimes that information you get in the civil case can actually lead to a criminal conviction,” Schubert said.

Schubert said an example is 92-year-old former New Orleans priest Lawrence Hecker.

He’s pleaded not guilty to rape and kidnapping charges dating back to the 1970s.

He faced civil claims before he was arrested last year.

Court records allege “Lawrence Hecker is a serial child sex abuser and rapist, and a diagnosed pedophile.”Play Video

“That’s a prime example. I would expect there to be more uncovered if this is upheld and if we get this extension, I expect there to be uncovering of more predators just like Hecker,” Schubert said.