JEFF ANDERSON, attorney ~ ‘Child Human Rights' movement
The ‘Windows Law', or, the ‘Statute of Limitations Reform Legislation', is really a Child Human Rights movement.
I've represented over 2,000 survivors, in cases against the Church hierarchy across the country, in the last twenty-plus years. I continue to represent hundreds of survivors ...those that involved in the California settlements and the trials ...and, in the passage of laws across the country, hopefully, more to come. In the settlements in Southern California, I'm currently involved in litigation against 50 Dioceses across the country, and another 25 against Orders.
There are statutes of limitations, civil and criminal. The criminal statue of limitations, that is for prosecution and imprisonment. Then, there's civil ... that's where we get involved ...suing them for accountability. In California, ‘The Window Law' was passed in 2002 that created a 1-year window of opportunity for survivors to bring suit ...that resulted in over 250 offenders being exposed to the civil suits. And in a stunning settlement that we just reach in California, 660 million dollars for 505 survivors.
The bottom line is, that legislation, and legislation like it just passed in Delaware, is now starting to catch the attention of lawmakers and public policy makers across the country. And, in ten states, there are large bills, or initiatives underway, to relax, reform or repeal statues of limitations.
The ‘Window Law', like the California and the Delaware law, is one strategy that is being considered. It's not the complete and total answer ...but, it's a giant step forward. Because, what it does is allow survivors to expose the offenders in a culture that protects them, to civil litigation, to allow their secrets to become public, and in-so-doing, the sins of the past are less likely to be repeated in the future.
It's a really important public policy, because the statutes of limitations are historical, legal statutes that refer backwards, that say justice requires that people assert their claims, quickly.
But, when it comes to children, in terms of rules to protect them, those statutes of limitations portend to only one class ... the predators and those who protect them. In the case of the Catholic Bishops ...or, in the case of the Boy Scouts ...their superiors ...in the case of the school officials -- whoever it is, oftentimes these people can't thrive, and re-offend ...unless, they're protected by their superiors.
So, The Statues of Limitations Reform Initiative, is really a Child Human Rights movement, that is moving the public policy agenda to the recognition that public policy as it is written right now, protects the wrong class ... the perpetrators.
Worldwide, this area is just coming to the fore. In Australia, in the United Kingdom, in Germany, and to some extent, France and elsewhere.
I have long been concerned about international movement of predator priests by religious Orders. Religious Orders don't have geographical limits ... i other words, they can assign any priest anywhere in world, anytime they want, by a phone call. They can move them to Argentina, or Peru, to Oakland ...by a phone call. What they've been doing is moving these people internationally ... for a long time. As a result, I've not been an attorney that's capable of doing much about this outside the U.S. ... I brought a case against Cardinal Mahoney in Los Angeles. If you read about the litigation, Northern California is involved. We settled 160 cases up in Northern California. But anyway, down south, I sued Cardinal Mahoney and Cardinal Roberto Rivera ...the preeminent Cardinal in Mexico City, considered to be a likely candidate to the Papacy some day. None-the less, the two of them are in a conspiracy, involving the international conspiracy of a predatory priest to cross boundaries ... where he raped 60 kids in Mexico and dozens in the U.S., moving him from Mexico to the U.S., back to L.A., back to Mexico, and he's still on the loose.
That is one, of many cases, that demonstrates the international movement of these guys ...conspiracies and adherence to protocols of secrecy by the Bishops, worldwide.
I settled a case against a Dominican Order last week and made an announcement in Washington D.C. and did a press conference, where they had moved this priest from Maryland, to Jimbote-sp? Peru, to Summerset Ohio, to Washington D.C., to Germantown Maryland -- with a long trail of victims that I traced across the world ...going to Lima and Jimbote-sp? myself, personally on his trail. And ultimately, settled it, and our investigation and all the depositions revealed in moving this guy around, to ten different locations following ten different reports ... for two decades. And, that is a pattern element that emerged in almost every case I've handled in the last 20 years.
[AA] Jeff, to the extent that the Vatican is sovereign country, does that give them perhaps some cards up their sleeves in moving people around, internationally?
[J] Yes. Absolutely. The Vatican establishes protocols for every Superior and Bishop across the world. One of the protocols is, avoid scandal. To avoid scandal, they keep these secrets. And, they keep secrets filed in what they call, ‘subsecretial' files under Canon 49 ... they're required to. The bottom line is, the problem emanates from the Vatican, historically ...because they make their own rules and operate above the law.
Suing the Vatican, is a legal impediment. However, I sued them in St. Petersburg Florida. I sued them in Portland Oregon at the same time.
The St. Petersburg case settled.
The Portland Oregon case, I got a ruling from the Federal District Court judge, Amasman, where he ruled the immunity, the sovereign immunity of the Vatican as a country ... does not apply when you make the showing that I was able to make ...that there was an international movement of this Irish priest from Ireland, to Chicago, to Portland.
As a result, the Vatican took immediate appeal, and that case is now in the 9th District Court of Appeals. No doubt, they will rule sometime. Whichever way they rule, for or against us ... right now, the trial court ruled in our favor ... and they said, You can sue the Vatican. The Sporn<sp?> Sovereign Immunities Act that gives them a shield, doesn't apply ... there are certain exceptions ...this in one of them, because it involves international conspiracy, and therefore the sovereign status shield doesn't apply.
The case is likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
That case is, ‘Dole vs. The Holy See'. All the briefs were just filed, and a press release is going out on that tomorrow.
So, the sovereign status of the Vatican is an impediment, it has been an impediment. I see that case, if it breaks-thru and makes a crack in what I call ‘the clerical armor' the Vatican has lived behind as a sword and a shield, for decades, if not centuries.
It is the first crack in the armor.
Behind that, another case, handled by Bill McMurry out of Kentucky, go a similar ruling out of a judge in another jurisdiction.
So, those cases are up there. I think they could be, and may be, a major breakthrough in holding the Vatican to account for it's rule in this scandal in the U.S., and worldwide.
Can you sue the Vatican as a sovereign? That is a hard threshold to make. But, because of the magnitude of this conspiracy that has now been revealed, the courts are more open to considering. Essentially, what Judge Masholin (sp?) did, is believing that it's possible ...and secondly, you have the fact that you have a religious organization in the U.S. that's given special privileges under the United States Constitution which implicates the First Amendment in the free exercise of religion ... which is another major impediment to holding these people accountable -- behind which they try to hide and use that as a shield.
This is no small task. We are fighting with Titans, here. In one sense, this is the survivors and the advocates fighting for the moral imperative. The Church continues to push us back ...but, it's a childs' human right movement that is unstoppable, because it's time has come, is the bottom line.
[J] We don't have to police worldwide, but what we can do through the U.S. tort system and the courage of the survivors that have come forward, here and used litigation to expose perpetrators to the media ...we really have the opportunity, and have made strides towards exposing the scope of the problem as being a worldwide problem ... particularly in Hispanic and Catholic communities.
[J] Oh my God ... that's a whole different discussion. The Hispanics are largely in denial because ...just take Mexico, for example, we just did a press conference down there, where I filed a case against the Cardinal.
Nobody had ever talked about this issue, before. Nobody had ever sued anybody in Mexico, before. I was literally kidnapped by immigration people at the request of the Cardinal and went out of the country ...and now, I'm banned from Mexico.
The bottom line is, Mexico is 90% Catholic. People down there are reluctant to believe it's a problem, or that a priest would offend. All the authorities in Mexico and South America are reluctant to see and to believe and don't know. But, since that case, there has been an eruption of media attention around this. There have been protests against Cardinal Rivera ...and, all the Catholic Bishops in Mexico, and all the Catholic Bishops in Mexico a real unraveling of awareness that is unprecedented, brings us back to Boston, here ...and, what we learned in 2002 is now unfolding daily in Mexico.
This week, we released a set of new documents we got as a result of the deposition of Cardinal Rivera, and we're going to continue to be releasing information about that case and the problem in Mexico and South America in the Latino community, as we speak. It's an enormous problem, it's 90% Catholic in Mexico, and 89% of the people are unaware of how grave the problem is ...or they were, until recently. Now, the Mexican media is all over this story, as we speak.
There is a Snap in Mexico, Eric Vergon is it. He's the Snap leader, in Mexico. He's living down there, now. He's a survivor from Los Angeles, living in Mexico right now.
He's a true hero, in every sense of the word. Very brave. However, he has been under such pressure since he's spoken out at the press conference, he's now under 24-hour security. Because of the threats against him. He can talk to you about that. The government came in, the government's giving him 24-hour security.