The time for the review of SB 199, the SAFE Child Act, has finally come. On Oct. 21, Superior Court judges Martin McGee, Greg Horne, and Imelda Pate sat on a panel in Wake County to hear challenges to the bill’s constitutionality, as reported by NewsDeal. Our attorneys at Lanier Law Group, P.A. are proud to continue to fight for survivors of sexual abuse, even as opponents of the bill attempt to sweep them under the rug yet again.
Lanier Law Group recently filed to have sex abuse cases against the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) consolidated into a class action lawsuit. The SAFE Child Act has given these survivors a second shot at seeking justice by extending the statute of limitations, expanding the definition of sexual abuse, and opening a lookback window for those previously barred from filing a claim.
At the three-judge panel review Oct. 21, opponents of the SAFE Child Act took issue with the bill’s lookback window. They alleged that this window strips North Carolina residents of their vested constitutional right to be freed of civil liability once the statute of limitations has expired.
Special Deputy Attorney General Phillip Rubin argued, however, that the window is more a “correction of a mistake based on newfound knowledge that was compelling enough to get the support of the entire legislature.” (The SAFE Child Act had, in fact, passed unanimously in the North Carolina General Assembly during a period marked by deep division.)
Since then, unresolved claims of abuse have been brought forth not just against UNCSA, but also against a number of colleges and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte.
Attorney Robert “Bobby” Jenkins of Lanier Law Group, who represents plaintiffs in both cases, attended the Oct. 21 review. As NewsDeal reported, he introduced a collection of appeals within the windows’ protection to illustrate how previous rulings on the unconstitutionality of lookback windows did not detail their reasoning. He argued that the current state structure leaves plenty of room for interpretation.
For now, we await the decision of the three-judge panel. An unsatisfactory decision would hardly be the end of our work, however. There is the chance for further legal action—and Lanier Law Group plans to take it to protect survivors’ rights.
“Thanks to the SAFE Child Act, adults who were sexually violated as children are able to sue their abusers in court for the damages they suffered,” Attorney General Josh Stein said in a statement. “Our understanding of childhood abuse and its long-term impact on people’s lives has evolved, and our laws must do the same. Victims deserve their day in court.”
We’re Taking on UNCSA
Lanier Law Group has filed suit in Forsyth County accusing UNCSA, which admits high school and college students, of failing to stop its teachers from sexually preying on students. Currently, all the plaintiffs suffered abuse as minors in the UNCSA high school dance program back in the 1980s.
In a Zoom press conference, Attorney Lisa Lanier of Lanier Law Group praised her clients for coming forward and speaking up about their traumatic experiences.
To learn more about this case, read the full article in The Charlotte Observer here.
Unfortunately, the lookback window opened by the SAFE Child Act will close in December 2021. If you or someone you love has been the victim of sex abuse at UNCSA, reach out to our compassionate attorneys online or at (855) 757-4204. We’ll discuss your rights in a free, confidential consultation.