Berman & Simmons attorney Michael Bigos appeared before Maine’s Supreme Court, delivering oral arguments supporting the constitutionality of a law that removed the statute of limitations for adults who survived childhood sexual abuse so that they may come forward and sue their abusers and their enablers. The Bangor courtroom was full, with many survivors present.
Attorney Bigos argued that Maine law supports affirming and applying the statute passed by the Maine Legislature in 2021 which repealed procedural time limits for when survivors could bring suit. Studies have shown that survivors of childhood sexual abuse often do not come forward until age 52 on average. “There’s never been a right to enabling child sex abuse, attorney Michael Bigos told the court. “The diocese wants you to create a vested right in getting away with it.” The new law recognizes that survivors come forward later in life when they feel safe and ready—not soon after abuse. Other states have considered this question, most recently Vermont, which upheld a law nearly identical to Maine’s.
Berman & Simmons abuse survivor practice group attorneys Michael Bigos, Timothy Kenlan, Joseph Gousse, Kristin Murray-James, and co-counsel of some cases, Jessica Arbour of Horowitz Law, attended. To date, Berman & Simmons has filed 30 suits against Maine’s Catholic Diocese behalf of survivors of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Maine. The firm represents over 100 survivors of childhood sexual abuse in claims against summer camps, private schools, youth organizations and many religious groups.
Friends of the Court Offer Support
The Assistant State Attorney General also argued in favor of keeping the law, restating its constitutionality.
Also attending were multiple “Friends of the Court.” These are lawyers and associations with an interest in the outcome, including Maine State Rep. Lori Gramlich who sponsored the legislation being decided, along with representatives from Child USA, Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Public Justice, Maine Trial Lawyers Association, and Pine Tree Legal Assistance.
Trauma-informed advocates were also in attendance to support survivors.
It is expected that The Court will issue a decision in early 2024.
The high-profile arguments received local and national media attention:
- Bangor Daily News: Maine Supreme Court To Decide Legality of Removing Time Limit for Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
- Portland Press Herald: Maine’s Catholic Church and Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse Take Constitutionality Question to the Supreme Court
- WVII-TV: Maine’s Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments Regarding Child Sex Abuse Statute
- Associated Press: Maine court hears arguments on removing time limits on child sex abuse lawsuits | AP News