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Boarding School Lawsuit Bill Dies

A bill that intended to allow alleged victims of sexual and physical abuse in Indian boarding schools to continue litigation failed in the State Senate Judiciary Committee.
 
In 2010 the state legislature extended the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases . Alleged victims claim the measure ended up throwing out on-going cases against the church, robbing them of their day in court.
 
Opponents claim the bill is poorly written and will not do what is intended.

Attorneys who represent alleged victims of abuse in Indian boarding schools say a large number of cases have been thrown out based on South Dakota’s new stature of limitations. Those backing Native American Plaintiffs allege they have proof the church illegally covered up written evidence showing clergy engaged in sexual abuse of children. Gerri Dubourt says her case was thrown out of court six days before trail following a new statute of limitations enacted in 2010.

“We were severely abused. I want you to understand that. All we want is to be able to have a voice. We’re not trying to bring anybody down. We’re not trying to bring any body down. All we wanted is a voice to say that these things should never ever happen to children, says Dubourt.  

But no legal counsel for the victims testified in favor of SB 130. Opponents to the legislation include Steve Smith an attorney from Chamberlain who represented church entities and clergy accused of abuse. He backed the original 2010 bill, and he is in favor of continuing the statute of limitations in South Dakota. Smith testifies this bill does not give victims their day in court–rather he says does the opposite.

“What would happen by passing this act is to absolutely slam the door 100% on their ability. But what you would do is create a lot of chaos in the judicial system trying to figure out what exactly happened here if this will were to pass,” says Smith.

Lawmakers on the committee say they never intended to deny victims the right to continue litigation. But committee members say it wasn’t clear from the proponent testimony that the legislation actually fixed the problem. The bill failed to pass by a vote of five to two.
 

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