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BANGOR, Maine (ChurchMilitant.com) — Maine's Supreme Judicial Court is currently reviewing a 2021 statute that eliminates the statute of limitations for filing childhood sexual abuse claims.
The Roman Catholic diocese of Portland is actively resisting the legislation, which has triggered a wave of lawsuits against it.
The Penobscot Judicial Center witnessed a significant turnout on Nov. 2 as observers gathered to hear the legal debate unfold. The diocese argues the law unfairly imposes new liabilities for historical claims that were previously time-barred.
Gerald Petruccelli, representing the Church, contends the diocese should not face lawsuits for allegedly concealing abuse by reassigning priests, as these actions were not subject to litigation after the original statute of limitations ran out.
Conversely, plaintiffs' attorney Michael Bigos defends the law, asserting it mirrors Maine's public demand for accountability in historical abuse cases.
So far, the law has prompted around 30 lawsuits against the diocese, with allegations of abuse dating back to the 1950s and as recently as the 1980s. The court's upcoming decision will either validate these claims' legal standing or potentially nullify them on constitutional grounds.
Chief Justice Valerie Stanfill noted the unusually high attendance, reflecting the case's significance and the community's interest. The court's impending ruling is set to have a profound effect not just on the involved parties, but also on how legal systems nationwide may address long-standing abuse claims and uphold victims' rights.