Assembly Judiciary Committee Approves SB131
SACRAMENTO – Senate Bill 131, a proposal to increase the statute of limitations for survivors of childhood molestation to sue their abusers, was approved Tuesday by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on 6-2 vote. Two members did not vote.
Under SB 131, past victims who are older than the existing statute of limitations ceiling of 26 years and who did not discover the cause of their injuries or trauma due to molestation in time to file a lawsuit will still have a chance to sue either through a one-year window that would commence on Jan. 1, 2014, or through the retroactive use of a delayed discovery provision.
“We are seeing adults who were molested when they were children coming forward but unable to bring their abusers to justice because of the existing statute of limitations,’’ Senator Jim Beall said. “They are getting older but they are still suffering. They just want their day in court. I believe these survivors deserve that opportunity because the law should work to help the victims instead of protecting the pedophiles who sexually exploited them.’’
Joelle Casteix, an Orange County woman who was abused as a youngster by a clergyman, cited her own experience, as well as those of others, for the need to extend the statute of limitations during her testimony before the committee.
“It took me more than 15 years to heal from the injuries and to understand that what happened to me was not my fault. For most victim, it takes longer, ‘’ Casteix said.
Moreover, SB 131 will expose serial molesters and stop them from harming more children, she said.
Jeff Dion, deputy executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, told the committee many abusers often are in positions of power and trust over children and use their authority against vulnerable children.
“It is very important that the persons and institution that enabled them (the abusers) to be held accountable,’’ Dion said. “These institutions I’m talking about generally are good institutions that we support, admire . . . that we belong to. . . . But just like a friend that we trust and admire, if they do something that falls short of what is expected of them they must be held accountable.’’
In other action, the Judiciary Committee also passed SB 156, legislation introduced by Beall to bolster protections for the estates of conserved adults to stop them from being overcharged by unscrupulous estate managers.
Beall’s bill would end a dilemma conserved adults face if they choose to contest questionable fees and bills in court: Under existing law, they must pay the conservator’s legal fees – even if a judge ultimately finds the conservators had filed unjustified or exorbitant bills, a circumstance commonly referred to in the legal community as “fees on fees.’’
Because of this gap in the law, some elderly and disabled adults have chosen to accept the overcharges solely because it will cost more to challenge them in court, win or lose.
If passed, SB 156 would grant judges with greater authority to protect estates from exorbitant billing and fees. The bill substantially reduces the risk that a ward or conservatee who wins a challenge to a fee petition will have to pay "fees on fees."
“SB 156 will act as a deterrent to any unfair padding of costs and reduce the incidences of contested cases,’’ Beall said.