The ruling against Prince Andrew is another win for the Child Victims Act’s lookback window, experts say

“The defendant is not the first to make this argument, which every New York state and federal court has refused to confront,” the federal judge wrote in the 46-page decision. It has been repeatedly rejected for good reasons.”

The brief rejection represents a clear message from the courts: The Child Victims Act, the basis of Virginia Joffrey’s lawsuit against Prince Andrew, is here to stay.

“I see this ruling as very important, as another step in terms of really recognizing the survivors’ right to take their case to court,” said Liz Roberts, CEO of Safe Horizon, which has advocated for the law for years.

Passed in 2019, the Child Victims Act established a one-year review period — later expanded to two years due to the pandemic — during which victims of child sexual abuse can file a civil lawsuit against a person or institution, no matter how much. Time has passed since the attack. The law also extended the statute of limitations for potential cases of child sexual abuse in the future.
Previously, child sexual abuse cases could not be prosecuted in New York more than five years after the crime, and civil lawsuits had to be brought within three years after the victim’s 18th birthday.

The idea of ​​the Child Victims Act was that many victims of child sexual abuse take years to speak out about their trauma, and that the law would give them a chance to finally spend their day in court.

“For many survivors, it feels like an opportunity to get some kind of public social recognition of the horrific abuse they’ve experienced, to confront the person who abused them, or the institution, and to really talk about what really happened to them, and in some cases you’ll get reparations for what happened to them,” Roberts said. They suffered.

The review window opened in August 2019 and closed in August 2021. More than 10,600 child sexual abuse lawsuits were filed in New York in that period, according to New York Courts spokesperson Lucien Chalvin.

One of those plaintiffs was Joffrey, who filed suit in the final week of the review period. In her lawsuit, Geoffrey alleged that Prince Andrew sexually assaulted her when she was a minor at Jeffrey Epstein’s home in Manhattan, Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands and at the home of Epstein’s close partner Jeslyn Maxwell in London.

Prince Andrew denied the allegations. He can still choose to appeal the ruling.

Epstein, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to prostitution charges, was convicted on federal sex trafficking charges in July 2019 and died by suicide in prison a month later. Maxwell, his ex-girlfriend, was arrested a year later and accused of facilitating Epstein’s abuse scheme. A grand jury indicted her in late December on five federal charges, including trafficking a minor and conspiracy.

Why did the judge uphold the Child Victims Act

The prince’s lawyers lobbied for Joffrey’s lawsuit to be dismissed and put forward several arguments for doing so. One is that the Child Victims Act was unconstitutional because it violated the due process rights of those accused of wrongdoing.
Other judges have previously upheld the law, including in May 2020 in a lawsuit against the Rockville Parish Center on Long Island.

In his ruling issued Wednesday, Kaplan cited a handful of cases in which justices rejected that constitutional argument. He described the review period in the Child Victims Act as “a reasonable measure to address the injustice and within the confines of the new legal standard that was clarified shortly before it was passed.”

These windows of review, also known as statute of limitations revival statutes, have long been viewed as constitutional, said Barry Salzman, an attorney who has represented pro bono sexual assault survivors in cases against the clergy and Epstein. He told CNN that the prince’s argument against the law would fail.

“I honestly don’t think it’s a strong argument and I don’t think it will ever be dropped,” he said.

Salzman praised the judge’s ruling and said he was happy to see the case moving forward.

“As an attorney who has defended victims for many years, I am really pleased to see legislation like the CVA Act that truly allowed all these survivors to spend their day in court,” he said. “I think it really speaks to more openness or acceptance in our society for these people to believe.”

Roberts, too, said Safe Horizon has championed the law for a decade, and lawyers have crafted the language of the law closely. She said the argument that the defendants lost due process was “disingenuous”.

“All the law does is give them a chance to appear in court,” she said. “They still have to prove their case.” “The accused has access to all the usual protections in court as a defendant in the lawsuit.”

CNN’s Sonia Moggi and Emanuela Greenberg contributed to this report.

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