La. Supreme Court reverses ‘lookback window’ decision

Published 7:36 am Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Louisiana Supreme Court has reversed its previous decision that struck down the state’s “lookback window” law, which passed unanimously through the Legislature and was signed by the governor in 2021.

Attorney General Liz Murrill filed the rehearing application immediately after that decision was made by the justices, and the court has now ruled in her favor.

“These child victims of sexual abuse deserve their day in court. This is a win for victims of sexual assault and those who have been silenced for far too long. A great day for Louisiana. It’s very rare for the Supreme Court to grant rehearing and reverse itself. I’m grateful to the court for giving such careful attention to an issue that is so deeply troubling and personal for so many victims of abuse,” Murrill said.

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The move could have a profound impact on several Catholic dioceses in the state that are already grappling with significant legal settlements and ongoing investigations.

On May 10, the Louisiana Supreme Court granted a rehearing on a March ruling that had overturned a “look back law” passed in 2021 and amended in 2022, which gave victims of child sexual abuse until June 14 of this year to file civil claims regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred. The Louisiana Legislature June 3 approved a Senate bill to extend the period another three years, until June 14, 2027.

The court’s 4-3 March ruling had found that law was at odds with the state constitution’s due process, prompting dismay from abuse survivors and advocates.

“Given Louisiana’s legitimate interest in protecting its citizens who were sexually abused as minors and in providing them with the ability to seek redress in the courts, and the narrowly tailored nature of the relief provided … it is clear that defendants have failed to satisfy the ‘heavy burden’ of proving the unconstitutionality of the revival provision,” said Chief Justice John Weimer writing for the majority.

The ruling noted the legislation revived, “for a short period of time … a narrow category of tort victims.” The revival provision at issue “has been demonstrated to have a substantial relationship to public safety, morals and welfare,” Weimer wrote.