‘A Theoretical Impossibility’: As Attorneys Are Flooded With Plaintiffs Under Child Victims Act, a Legislative Push May Help

New York Law Journal

A partner in a New York City law firm suggests “it’s become a theoretical impossibility” to serve all the thousands of purported victims who are in need of legal representation for age-old allegations of sex abuse, after a 2019 reform measure extended the statute of limitation on cases.

Attorney James Marsh, a partner with Marsh Law, said he figured to get about 100 clients who would file claims under the Child Victims Act of 2019, which allows the statute of limitations to begin running when a child turns 23 in a criminal case, and for civil suits to be filed before a toddler, preteen or teenage victim turns 55. The lookback window on cases ended on Aug. 14, 2021, after being open for two years.

After talking to 4,000 people for intakes since 2018, Marsh Law has taken on 800 to 1,000 cases, said Marsh, who initially dedicated three employees to CVA cases two years ago, but now uses 12 employees.

More than 10,000 cases were filed throughout New York, but thousands of others are not being served because they can’t find a lawyer willing to take on their cases, advocates say.

Marsh supports a legislative effort to establish a fund to help these victims have their day in court.

Marsh and Gary A. Greenberg, the CEO of ProtectNYKids, stand behind S6847, a 2019 bill proposed by Sen. James Gaughran, D-Long Island, whose purpose is to establish a fund to assist victims of childhood sexual assault with civil legal services and fees. The proposal is sitting in the Senate Budget and Revenue Committee.

In an interview, Marsh points to Georgia, which created a center at the University of Georgia Law School, to handle victims’ cases pro bono.

“I don’t know how successful that program was, or the ins and outs of that program,” Marsh said Monday. “But I do know that that’s a big piece of what’s missing from the New York reform,  and this has been kicking around out there since well before 2018.”

Marsh said he’s always supported the idea of a fund as “a necessary adjunct” to any sort of reform.

“But after decades and decades of trying,” Marsh said of the CVA, “legislation is obviously a process, and this was a huge process that many, many people worked on for a huge number of years. And so, on the one hand, we are lucky to get any reform at all.”

“It wasn’t the kind of situation where the Legislature was sitting around basically saying, ‘Hey, tell us what we can do for you, and give us your wish list.’ And certainly this was on the wish list. But because of the transitions in the Legislature, we were lucky to get any reform at all,” he reiterated. 

“Obviously, the devil’s in the details and how it’s actually going to work,” he said. “But I know there’s a lot of frustration out there with a lot of people that have valid claims that have been unable to pursue them. We’re talking 10,000 cases in the state of New York. The bar is stretched thin, and we’d like to obviously help everyone out there. It’s not for lack of trying.” 

Find more information online here.

Filed Under  Child Victims Act (CVA)  Childhood Sexual Abuse  News 

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