Sexual Abuse Plaintiffs Fight Jesuit Efforts to Reveal Their Identities
As hundreds of Child Victims Act lawsuits work their way through New York’s courts, defense lawyers for one Catholic religious order are pressing to expose the identities of plaintiffs who wish to remain anonymous.
Attorneys for the Northeast Province of the Jesuit Brothers have challenged plaintiffs’ anonymity in at least three cases in New York City — one involving the Loyola School in Manhattan and two at Fordham Preparatory School in The Bronx.
The three individuals are suing over “unpermitted sexual contact” they allege happened when they were under the age of 16.
Legal counsel for the Jesuits argued in court filings that the accusers’ anonymity violates the defendants’ constitutional right of due process, asserting: “The potential for public humiliation or embarrassment is not sufficient grounds for anonymity.”
An attorney for the Jesuits and a spokesperson for the Northeast Province of the Jesuits both declined to comment.
Jeff Anderson, the attorney for the plaintiffs suing the Jesuits, said that the majority of his firm’s 275 Child Victims Act cases so far rely on pseudonyms.
He calls anonymity in these cases “important and critical because each of these survivors are victims of crime,” adding: “This gives them the chance to have choices as plaintiffs and as litigants that they didn’t have as kids.”
The Case for John Doe
The state Child Victims Act, in effect since August 14, allows for a yearlong window for plaintiffs to file lawsuits about abuse that happened years in the past, in addition to significantly lengthening the statute of limitations on civil cases going forward.
Many of the cases are proceeding using initials, “Anonymous” or the name “John Doe,” with judges’ consent.
On Thursday morning, State Supreme Court Judge George Silver presided over a hearing regarding a lawyer’s request for anonymity in nine cases alleging abuse at St. Francis Prep, a Roman Catholic high school in Queens’ Fresh Meadows neighborhood.
Plaintiffs’ attorney David Oddo told THE CITY that some of his clients in those cases have lived suppressing painful memories for many years, confid...