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Attorneys For Victims Of Sexual Abuse Say They Aren't Deterred By Boy Scout Bankruptcy

LM Otero
A statue stands outside the Boys Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas, last week.

The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy Tuesday, under the weight of hundreds of childhood sexual abuse cases filed against the organization. An attorney for 75 cases in New York says the news is a mixed bag for his clients.

Seattle-based attorney Jason Amala says the news that the Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy is a form of validation for his clients because the declaration means the national organization is admitting that many of the incidents are real.

“It’s good news, because it’s difficult for the Boy Scouts to claim they did not have a big problem if they are filing for bankruptcy,” Amala said. “On some level this is the Boy Scouts accepting responsibility for what happened.”

But on the down side, it also means that many of the confidential files on abuse allegations, which were kept by the Boy Scouts since the 1920s, might not be accessible to survivors and their attorneys who are trying to build a case.

“The files that are out there are incomplete,” said Amala, who says the files made public so far are from 1965 to the early 1990s.

Amala says it’s important for survivors to know that there will still be money available to pay settlements in lawsuits, even though the group is declaring bankruptcy. He says the Boy Scouts have reported over $1 billion dollars in assets.

The bankruptcy judge could further limit the time some New York survivors have to file lawsuits. Under the state’s Child Victims Act, those over 55 who have aged out of the statute of limitations have a one-year window of opportunity to file civil cases. That window ends August 14. But the judge could potentially set an even narrower window to accept new cases.

Local Boy Scout Councils around the state have so far not followed the lead of the national organization, and remain solvent, though Amala says it’s likely that many will file bankruptcy in the coming days.  

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.
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