Access to the Courts for Repressed Memory

By Patrick Noaker
Child Protection News
January 30, 2012

One of the pillars of justice to which I have dedicated my career is meaningful access to the court systems for all. Even those with mental conditions that make it difficult for the justice system to embrace. Often this fight is about removing barriers that keep people out of the courts. Recently, I had the honor of arguing in front of the Minnesota Supreme Court on one of these issues. The case before the Minnesota Supreme Court involved a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by the well-known sexual abuser Fr. Thomas Adamson. As a reaction to the trauma of being sexually assaulted by his parish priest, the boy developed amnesia for the sexual abuse. The traumatic memories then flooded back years later.

This type of amnesia is not common in the general population, but is more common in people who have been traumatized like combat veterans, child abuse victims, Holocaust survivors, and war refugees. There has been much discussion in the fields of psychology and psychiatry about this amnesia, commonly referred to as repressed memory. In our case, the issue was whether to allow persons who have experienced repressed memory to have access to courts. Can criminal or civil cases be prosecuted when a person experiences repressed memory? I advocate the position that all people should be given access to Minnesota courts no matter what mental or physical condition they suffer from. The above Minnesota Lawyer article summarizes the arguments to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

About the Author. Patrick Noaker is the Senior Litigation Attorney in the Jeff Anderson law firm. He has successfully litigated hundreds of cases involving childhood sexual abuse for clients all across the United States and has worked with others to initiate legislation that protects children. Patrick has lectured nationally on issues encountered in sexual abuse litigation, appeared on national television and in newspapers across the country advocating for survivors of sexual abuse and other crimes.








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