Sunday, August 25, 2002

Time and Justice in Massachusetts

It appears that at least some of the numerous plaintiffs and alleged victims in the "Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal" cases claim that they repressed their memories of their abuse by Catholic clergy. See, e.g., Douglas Belkin, "Shanley Pleads Not Guilty," The Boston Globe,Metro/Region p. B1 ( July 11, 2002).

Long-lasting defects in memory have occasionally been a rewarding attribute in Massachusetts.

In 1992 Ann Shahzade commenced a civil action in which she averred that she had been sexually abused by the defendant – her cousin – more than forty-seven [47!] years earlier. Shahzade v. Gregory, 930 F. Supp. 673 (D. Mass. 1996). The sexual abuse allegedly occurred from 1940 to 1945. Plaintiff was 68 years old when she commenced her lawsuit against her even more elderly cousin. Defendant – her cousin – made a motion for summary judgment: he argued that plaintiff's civil action was barred by the applicable Massachusetts statute of limitations. United States District Court Judge Harrington, however, denied the motion. He reasoned that there was admissible evidence that plaintiff had repressed her memories of having been abused, repressed memories that plaintiff allegedly recovered during psychotherapy in 1990. Judge Harrington acknowledged that the evidence clearly showed that plaintiff had long believed – indeed, had believed for much of her adult life – that she had been abused by her cousin. But Judge Harrington concluded that there was sufficient admissible evidence to show that until 1990 – when psychotherapy allegedly allowed plaintiff to fully recover her repressed memories and thus endowed her with new understanding – plaintiff did not appreciate the cause of the harms that she allegedly experienced as a result of the alleged sexual abuse by her cousin half a century before.

Post a Comment