Child Victims Act Plaintiffs May Remain Anonymous, New York Judge Rules

Published on November 13, 2019 by Sandy Liebhard

Plaintiffs filing lawsuits in accordance with New York’s recently passed Child Victim’s Act got a bit of a boost this week, when a New York City judge ruled they may remain anonymous.

New York Child Victims Act Ruling Applies Statewide

The decision came last Friday in a case brought by the Northeast Province of the Jesuit Brothers, which argued that plaintiff anonymity hinders due process for the accused. However, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge George J. Silver disagreed, pointing that plaintiffs’ names are known to the defendants, and only kept from the public to guard against “the lasting scars” likely to accompany exposure via media coverage.

The decision will apply statewide and was quickly lauded by victims’ advocates, who view challenges to anonymity as just another attempt to intimidate child abuse survivors into silence.

“I was very nervous and very concerned that, if the judge had gone against us, survivors would be deterred from using the law,” one attorney told the Albany Times-Union. “Now that this decision — which has statewide implications — has been made, it really is a major step in protecting the survivors.

About the New York Child Victims Act

The New York Child Victims Act became effective in February and altered state law in three key ways:

  • Extended the legal deadline for filing criminal felony charges against sexual abusers of children until a victim’s 28th birthday, rather than their 23rd birthday.
  • Extended the deadline to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators and institutions until a survivor’s 55th birthday.
  • Established up one one-year, one-time-only window to allow all survivors to file civil claims, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

The New York Child Victim Act’s one-year filing window opened on August 14, 2019. Since then, more than 1,000 previously time-barred lawsuits have been filed in state courts against defendants that include various religious denominations and orders, summer camp operators, prominent hospitals and pediatricians, public school districts, and youth groups, among others.

Hundreds of those filings involve anonymous plaintiffs, with complaints listing only their initials or some variation of John or Jane Doe.

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