BUFFALO, N.Y. -- HoganWillig Attorneys at Law represents two people who claim to have been child victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.
"Often times, that becomes a life-altering event that affects people for the rest of their lives, such that they need counseling, they need therapy and they need closure," attorney Steven Cohen said.
Both clients are older than 23, the age when the statute of limitations expires in New York, but rather than turn them away, the firm said it would look at other options to try and get them justice.
"We were instrumental in having the Pope address this issue and the Pope said all the right things but His Holiness did not follow through either," he said.
Cohen's faith in the Vatican to make amends was wavering, so he and his firm turned their attention to the New York State legislature. Downstate Senator Brad Hoylman is sponsoring legislation that would eliminate the deadlines for child sexual abuse victims to bring their cases to court and give victims whose statute of limitations had already passed a one-year period to sue.
"I think that if this provision had passed, I think the Diocese would then be open to settlement negotiations," Cohen said. "Right now, they have nothing to fear."
Monday, frustrated because Senate leadership had not appeared willing to bring the bill to the floor for a full vote, Hoylman attempted to attach it to an unrelated bill via a tactic called a hostile amendment. No Republicans voted for the action and it failed by three votes.
"Every single legislator has to be accountable for their actions. Every single legislator has to be accountable for whatever they vote for," state Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, said.
Even as the end of session quickly approaches, Kennedy, a co-sponsor, said the conversation is not over.
"We're supportive of any piece of legislation that will help these victims get some type of closure, and quite frankly, hold these perpetrators accountable," he said.
"It is my hope that the actions that were just taken on Monday, I think it was, are going to shine a very bright light into a very dark corner," Cohen said.
The New York State Catholic conference said it does support separate legislation to extend the statute of limitations for current and future victims but does not support opening up a window for cases where it has already passed.