La. Supreme Court reverses previous decision, upholds law for childhood sex abuse lawsuits

June 12, 2014


In a stunning reversal of its decision earlier this year, the Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld a state law giving survivors of childhood sex abuse more time to file lawsuits, a ruling that holds particular significance for Roman Catholic dioceses across the state and hundreds of survivors of childhood abuse by priests and deacons.

In an opinion issued Wednesday, the state’s high court ruled 5-2 that the “lookback window,” which was unanimously approved by the legislature several years ago, is constitutional, giving abuse survivors a three-year window to file damage suits for the past abuse, regardless of how long ago it occurred.

"Given Louisiana's legitimate interest in protecting its citizens who were sexually abused as minors and in providing them with the ability to seek redress in the courts ... it is clear that defendants have failed to satisfy the heavy burden of proving the unconstitutionality" of the law, Chief Justice John Weimer wrote for the majority.

Joining Weimer in the majority were Justices William Crain and Jay McCallum, who supported the law in March, and also Justices Scott Crichton and Piper Griffin, who reversed their earlier stances.

Justices James Genovese and Jeff Hughes dissented.

"I am very concerned about this majority ruling on rehearing, granting unbridled authority to the legislature to enact legislation which supersedes and tramples our Constitution," Genovese wrote. "I find such action to be a violation of the separation of powers doctrine. This is a slippery slope indeed."

Attorney General Liz Murrill asked the court for a rehearing in April, arguing that its earlier decision might violate the doctrine of the separation of powers, since Louisiana’s legislative branch unanimously voted for the lookback law. In a prepared statement, Murrill said the ruling marks a "great day for Louisiana."

“These child victims of sexual abuse deserve their day in court. This is a win for victims of sexual assault and for those who have been silenced for too long," the statement said. 

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