Daily News published version here.
By The Editorial Board
Assembly Bill 2777, introduced by Asm. Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, is ostensibly a serious piece of legislation tackling a serious issue in society.
According to a legislative analysis, the “Sexual Abuse and Cover Up Accountability Act,” as it is called, “revives claims for sexual assault of an adult that are based upon conduct that occurred on or after January 1, 2009, and commenced on or after January 1, 2019, that would have been barred solely because the applicable statute of limitations has or had expired.”
Wicks argues, “With this bill, California takes another step to protect survivors of sexual abuse when there is evidence of cover up by a defendant entity.”
There is no doubting the seriousness of sexual assault and the widespread problem of sexual harassment and abuse.
There are, however, issues with the bill. As the Civil Justice Association of California notes, the bill would, as written, revive claims over not just sexual assault but also “inappropriate conduct, communication, or activity of a sexual nature.”
“As a result, this bill could result in an onslaught of ancient claims against which businesses of all types and sizes across every industry will have no ability to defend themselves due to records and witnesses that are no longer accessible,” business groups in opposition argue.
The most glaring issue, though, is the fact that the bill would not apply to public agencies. That is, cases in which public employees are accused of having engaged in misconduct and public sector employers accused of covering up sexual misconduct, would not be subject to the anticipated “onslaught of ancient claims” that their private sector counterparts could be.
“Not only did [Wicks] fail to express any reservations about this gigantic breach in her bill, but none of the members of the Judiciary Committee questioned this exclusion, and eight out of 10 of them voted to support the measure and pass it out of committee,” wrote Kyla Christoffersen Powell, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, in an op-ed for this newspaper.
The bill should be rejected as it now stands.
This bill reveals the extent to which lawmakers are willing to be complete and utter hypocrites.