May 01, 2006

Sex-abuse measure fails fairness test

Rocky Mountain News

May 1, 2006
State Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald got choked up last week after succeeding in her months-long crusade to pass legislation targeting the Catholic Church. It's a good thing Lady Justice can't shed tears, too, or she'd be sobbing still.

House Bill 1090 violates so many standards of precedent, fairness and common sense that we hardly know where to begin. So we'll confine ourselves to five issues.

First, the bill is special legislation targeting a single entity, which the Colorado Constitution forbids. No, the bill doesn't mention the Catholic Church in lifting the statute of limitations so adults can sue for incidents that allegedly occurred decades ago. It is superficially neutral. But the bill was conceived for no other purpose than to punish the church; legislative hearings focused on the likely effects on the church; and the coalition of trial lawyers and a national victims' group pushing the bill is geared to move against one and only one institution.

Second, the bill ignores state Supreme Court precedent that says you can't move the legal goal posts by changing a statute of limitation retroactively. In a 1980 case the court said, "Where a statue of limitations has run . . . the right to plead it as a defense is a vested right which cannot be taken away or impaired by subsequent legislation."

Posted by kshaw at May 1, 2006 07:01 AM