Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Justice – Denied!

Agudath Israel and Torah U’Mesorah have come up with a joint statement on New York State legislation dealing with sexual abuse. They oppose extending the statute of limitations on lawsuits against institutions in any way involved in sexual abuse – such as those that protected and continued to employ of sex abusers.

On the surface their reasons are quite valid. After expressing honest and what I believe to be genuine concern for the victims they nevertheless say that this legislation would enable old cases to be filed against institutions that have long ago gotten rid of the perpetrators - and whose entire administrations and faculties are new and innocent of any involvement.

These lawsuits if successful could destroy legitimate and fine Yeshivos and cripple Chinuch. Even if the lawsuits are unsuccessful the legal defense costs alone could be enough to close them down. Yeshivos are in enough financial stress now. This could be the Makeh B’atesh - the final blow to American Chinuch as we know it – at least in New York.

This is an understandable concern and certainly worth consideration. But in the final analysis I’m afraid I have to disagree with them. Because by doing so justice will be denied to the victim.

As I understand it the legislation is set up to eliminate frivolous lawsuits and deal only with cases where there is real evidence of abuse. Real evidence in old cases is hard to come by. Memories fade. Witnesses forget details. It is my understanding that lawsuits in old cases are therefore rarely successful and rarely brought to trial.

In those circumstances where there is real evidence - time should not be an impediment to justice. It is sad that institutions that are now perfectly fine and decent must suffer the sins of their fathers (i.e. predecessor administrations). That is an injustice of sorts too. But once again the victims come first here. One thing I know about them all is they want to see justice done against those who have hurt them and escaped punishment – whether the individual perpetrator or the institution that protected and enabled him.

If an institution like that must close that does not mean the end of Jewish education for their students. The same fine and decent people who operate it now can begin anew elsewhere with a clear name and conscience. Or the parent body can find other Yeshivos that have never had these problems

Failed Messiah has a post on this subject today. It contains the text of the statement and his views on the subject. Although I do not agree with everything he says and think the title is unfair - I pretty much agree with much of it and there is nothing more that I can really add.