House Bill 612’s Journey to the PA Senate

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By: Giulia Schaub, Staff Writer


On September 24, 2018, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted in favor of an amendment to a reform bill, House Bill 612, addressing the statute of limitations of child sexual abuse with overwhelming support at 171-23. [1]The vote occurs in the wake of the grand jury report released in August that exposed years of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests and the concealment of such abuse by church authorities. [2]

The bill, approved by the House in April 2018, would eliminate the statute of limitations completely for future criminal suits and extend it to the victim’s fiftieth birthday for civil suits. [3]The amendment grants a two-year window for adult victims who have missed their opportunity to take legal action to file suit against their perpetrators. [4]The Senate is likely to vote on the bill sometime in of October. [5]Current law allows victims to file civilly until they attain thirty years of age and to file criminally until they attain fifty years of age. [6]

The movement for the two-year “window to justice” is led by Berks County Representative Mark Rozzi, who himself is a victim of abuse by a priest. [7]In addition to coping with his abuse, Rozzi has witnessed friends, classmates, and parishioners struggle with their abuse for years after it had ended, and even lost two childhood friends and fellow abuse victims to suicide. [8]

It was then Rozzi reached a tipping point: he felt responsibility to share his own story of abuse and become the advocate for hundreds of children and adults who were silenced for so long. [9]He choose to run for public office solely in the pursuit of justice for sexual assault victims. [10]

“When he took the gun and he put it to his chest and he killed himself- that’s the day I knew I let down the children of my parochial school,” he said to the House during the emotional ninety-minute hearing in which he originally proposed the bill. “I have tremendous guilt that I didn’t speak up sooner…if I did, could I have saved other lives[.]” [11]

Despite staggering bipartisan support in the House, the bill has met significant resistance.  The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference supports the criminal components of the bill, but not the changes to future civil suits. They argue bill would result in private institutions, such as the church, and public entities to be treated differently during civil procedure. [12]Should the bill pass, there would be no financial limit to the amount recoverable when suing a private institution, while the limit on all claims would remain in effect for public entities. [13]

Representatives opposing the bill have similar reservations as the Conference, in that it also opposes retroactive lawsuits, claiming they are unconstitutional, specifically in violation of the remedies clause. [14]The remedies clause of the Pennsylvania constitution states that “every man for an injury done him in his lands, goods, person or reputation shall have remedy by due course of law, and right and justice administered without sale, denial or delay.”[15]

Pennsylvania would not be the first state to dramatically its alter statute of limitations laws. Michigan, considered the worst state for a victim to file a claim for sexual abuse, adjusted their laws in the wake of the exposure of female gymnast abuse and medical malpractice at Michigan State University by Dr. Larry Nassar.[16]Michigan extended its statute of limitations to fifteen years in criminal cases and ten in civil cases. [17]

Minnesota also altered their laws when a sex abuse scandal surfaced in Catholic dioceses within the state, including a prolonged retroactive lawsuit period. [18]Previously, the courts operated under a “delayed discovery” law, which essentially gave victims until the age of twenty-four to file a claim. [19]In 2013, the Legislature passed the Minnesota Child Victims Acts, which lifted the statute of limitations and gave victims who were past the previous statute a window of three years to file suit. [20]

Despite being forced into bankruptcy and enduring a long settlement process, Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Minnesota deemed the last tumultuous years for his dioceses necessary for victims to be remedied as well as is possible, while allowing the church to continue its mission and recover from a dark period in its history. [21]“The church let you down,” he apologized many times to victims. “I am very sorry.” [22]






[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.





[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.


[13] Id.




[17] Id.


[19] Id.

[20] Id.


[22] Id.

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