Catholic Church Spent More Than $633K Lobbying in New Jersey, Focused on Thwarting Legislation that Would Aid Clergy Abuse Survivors

Bertin Lefkovic, who has been on the outside of New Jersey politics looking in for almost two decades, likens Gov. Phil Murphy's current struggles to make a decision on what to do with the 2020 budget passed by the NJ Legislature to an episode of NBC's The West Wing.

Catholic Church Spent More Than $633K Lobbying in New Jersey, Focused on Thwarting Legislation that Would Aid Clergy Abuse Survivors

Church has spent $10.6M lobbying in northeast states alone since 2011; long fought legislative bills that would extend statutes of limitations in stark contrast to its public statements about providing abuse survivors healing and closure

Ridgefield Park, New Jersey – A new report released today finds the Catholic Church spent more than $633,000 on lobbying in New Jersey since 2011, with a focus on defeating legislation that would extend the statute of limitations for survivors of clergy sexual abuse to seek criminal or civil charges against their abusers.

 

The report, CHURCH INFLUENCING STATE: How the Catholic Church Spent Millions Against Survivors of Clergy Abuse, was commissioned by Seeger Weiss LLP, Williams Cedar LLC, Abraham Watkins and the Simpson Tuegel Law Firm and is believed to be the most comprehensive analysis of the Church’s campaign to fight statute of limitations legislation. The northeast United States has been the epicenter of the push to extend statutes of limitations for survivors of sex abuse, and the report focuses on the Church’s lobbying activities in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, where it spent a total of $10.6 million on lobbying since 2011.

 

Through the New Jersey Catholic Conference, the Church spent $633,458 to thwart efforts to provide justice to New Jersey survivors of clergy sex abuse. Despite the Church’s war chest and lobbying muscle, bill S477 recently passed the legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy on May 13, 2019. The bill extends the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse to age 55 and opens a two-year revival window for claims against perpetrators and institutions beginning December 1, 2019.

 

“This report lays out what we have known all along – that the Catholic Church refuses to take responsibility for the decades of abuse that took place knowingly under its watch,” said Stephen A. Weiss, founding partner of Seeger Weiss LLP. “All survivors should have access to justice and the opportunity to demand reforms from the Church and any other institution that has allowed such insidious abuse.”

 

As part of this important trend, more than 20 other states across the country are also considering similar legislation which would benefit survivors of sexual abuse.

 

The full report can be found here.

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Williams Cedar LLC has joined forces with the New York City-based law firm of Seeger Weiss LLP; Mo Aziz from the Texas law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz; and Michelle Simpson Tuegel of The Simpson Tuegel Law Firm, also from Texas. Seeger Weiss has been a been a preeminent New York law firm for 20 years, best known for serving as lead counsel in the NFL Concussion litigation, as well as other prominent national litigations. Mr. Aziz and Ms. Tuegel have national experience handling high-profile cases, representing abuse survivors with U.S. National Team and Olympic gymnasts abused by Larry Nassar. Together, the firms are representing more than 300 clergy abuse survivors nationwide.

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