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Court to Consider Reinstating Lawsuit Alleging Yeshiva High School Covered Up Sexual Abuse by Rabbis

Sep 2, 2014

Thirty-four former students of Yeshiva University High School for Boys allege that the school placed them in danger by covering up sexual abuse by rabbis. This lawsuit was previously dismissed due to a ruling over statute of limitations, but the New York Times reports that attorneys for the former students are looking to reinstate the case and hold Yeshiva accountable for abuse that occurred between the 1970s and the early 1990s.

In January, federal judge John G. Koeltl dismissed the case, ruling that the alleged abuse had taken place too long ago. The former students’ attorney argued that the judge misconstrued the statute of limitations, stating that the school’s role in the crimes was not known until December 2012, when The Daily Forward published an article.

One issue being brought up is whether or not the victims had an obligation to determine whether a cover-up was possible before administrators admitted to knowing of the abuse. A three-judge panel debated when the former students could have learned of Yeshiva’s role in hiding the crimes. An attorney for Yeshiva claimed that the students could have complained of a cover-up immediately after the abuse happened, arguing that former students “sat on their rights for between 20 and 40 years” the New York Times reports. These claims were chided by Judge Guido Calabresi, who called them “remarkable”. In comparing the argument to an analogous car accident case, he pointed out that an injured victim could not accuse a manufacturer of safety related issues immediately after the accident. “Judge Koeltl knew what he was doing. I’m asking if you know what you are doing.” said Judge Calabresi to the Yeshiva lawyer.

None of the judges or lawyers on either side disputed the former students’ allegations of abuse. In an unusual move, Judge Calabresi openly sympathized with the victims and said that the court was going to try to right the unmistakable wrongs that occurred, even as the claims about the statute of limitations were being considered. The rabbis’ actions were “appalling” and “any decent court is going to be interested, if it possibly can, in giving redress” he said.

Chancellor Norman Lamm publicly apologized for the way he handled the allegations of abuse when he retired last year. “Despite my best intentions then,” he stated, “I now recognize that I was wrong.”

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