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Subpoena Issued for Compensation Program for Victims of Clergy Sex Abuse

The Buffalo News is reporting that a federal grand jury has issued a subpoena as part of an investigation involving clergy sex abuse in the Diocese of Buffalo.

The subpoena was served on two retired judges, former state Surrogate’s Court Judge Barbara Howe and former Appellate Division Justice Jerome Gorski, for records they reviewed as part of a compensation program established by the Buffalo Diocese for victims of clergy abuse.

Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program

The Diocese of Buffalo created the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) on March 1, 2018. The IRCP was one of many compensation programs established by catholic dioceses throughout New York State for victims of clergy sex abuse.

The Buffalo Diocese hired Judge Howe and Justice Gorski to serve as administrators of the IRCP. As administrators, Howe and Gorski reviewed the cases of abuse victims who applied to the IRCP. The administrators then decided whether to reject or accept an applicant’s claim and determined the amount of an award for applicants who were offered settlements.

Attorneys for Sexual Abuse Victims Notified

Lawyers representing sex abuse victims who applied to the IRCP were notified that a subpoena had been served for files related to their client’s case.

Barry N. Covert, who represents over 40 survivors of childhood sexual abuse, was one of the lawyers notified that a subpoena had been served to the IRCP administrators for records related to one of his clients.

Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse Begin to Tell Their Story as Child Victims Act’s Look-Back Window Approaches

When New York State’s Child Victims Act was signed in to law, the statute of limitations that restricted survivors of childhood sexual abuse from pursuing justice against their abusers changed dramatically.

Empowered with new rights under New York State law, adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse are coming forward to seek justice and shine a spotlight on abusers and institutions whose negligence allowed the abuse to occur.

A recent cover story in The Buffalo News discussed the Child Victims Act, the upcoming “look-back window” period, and the story of one abuse victim in particular, Kevin J. Koscielniak.

Barry Covert, a Senior Partner at Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria and the attorney for many adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, was interviewed for The Buffalo News’ recent story. Mr. Covert discussed how widespread the epidemic of childhood sexual abuse has been in Western New York and his experiences with the process of representing survivors who were abused by catholic priests in the Buffalo Diocese before the Child Victims Act became a law.

Child Victims Act Look-Back Window

Before the Child Victims Act was enacted, if a survivor of childhood sexual abuse in New York State wanted to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser, they had to do so by their 23rd birthday. Under the Child Victims Act, that statute has significantly expanded and victims of sexual abuse now have until their 55th birthday to take legal action.


Proposed Child Abuse Reporting Expansion (CARE) Act Requires Clergy to Report Child Abuse in New York State

New York State Assemblywoman Monica Wallace was joined by attorney Barry N. Covert and law professor Christine Bartholomew to introduce the Child Abuse Reporting Expansion (CARE) Act. The proposed law would require all members of the clergy, including Catholic Priests, to report child abuse in New York State.

Under New York State law, an extensive list of professionals are on a “mandatory reporters” list, which requires individuals in those professions to report any suspected cases of child abuse to the proper authorities. Clergy are not included on this list of mandatory reporters. In addition, New York State’s current law includes a “clergy privilege”, which exempts clergy from reporting anything they hear in the course of a confession.

The CARE Act would add clergy to the mandatory reporters list and allow the “clergy privilege” exemption to stay in place for all cases except in any matters involving child abuse.

As a follow-up to the Child Victims Act, the CARE at seeks to close loopholes that still exist in New York State law, which might protect abusers and keep victims of child abuse at risk.