Boy Scout councils under pressure to share sex abuse costs

The Associated Press Nine sex-abuse lawsuits were filed Tuesday in upstate New York against three Boy Scout local councils, signaling an escalation of efforts to pressure councils nationwide to pay a big share of an eventual settlement in the Scouts' bankruptcy proceedings.

NEW YORK — Nine sex abuse lawsuits were filed Tuesday in New York against three Boy Scout local councils, signaling an escalation of efforts to pressure councils nationwide to pay a big share of an eventual settlement in the Scouts’ bankruptcy proceedings.

The lawsuits were filed shortly after an easing of coronavirus lockdown rules enabled courts in some parts of New York to resume the handling of civil cases.

A lawye coordinating the filing, Mike Pfau, said his Seattle-based firm expects to file scores more lawsuits in other parts of New York, as well as in New Jersey and California, after full reopening of courts there.

Oregon-based Crew Janci LLP and Chicago-based Hurley McKenna & Mertz said they had similar plans, indicating there could be hundreds of such lawsuits altogether.

At least through June 8, an injunction issued by the bankruptcy judge, Laurie Selber Silverstein, blocks the lawyers from proceeding with lawsuits against the local councils. But several lawyers said they will press for the injunction to be lifted unless the councils’ financial information is fully disclosed and they agree to contribute significantly to a proposed victim compensation fund.

“The local councils are required to make a substantial contribution,” said Stephen Crew, of Crew Janci. “If they don’t, the plan won’t be approved.”

The Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February in hopes of surviving a barrage of lawsuits, many of them made possible by recent changes in state laws to allow people to sue over long-ago sexual abuse.

Proceedings are underway at federal bankruptcy court in Delaware aimed at creating a compensation fund for thousands of men molested as youngsters decades ago by scoutmasters or other leaders.

In its bankruptcy filing, the BSA said the 261 local councils, which have extensive property holdings and other assets, are separate legal entities and should not be included as debtors in the case.

The councils are represented by an ad hoc committee in the proceedings, and negotiations are in progress over disclosure of their assets and records as a step toward determining their contributions to the compensation fund.

Pfau said he was skeptical the councils would agree to contributions large enough to forestall lawsuits against them.

 

Lawyer Tim Kosnoff, whose Abused in Scouting legal team says it’s representing 3,200 clients in the bankruptcy case, estimated that the local councils possess roughly 80% of total Boy Scouts assets, compared with about 20% for the Texas-based national office.

Kosnoff said he worries some local councils might try to transfer assets in a way that would put them out of reach of bankruptcy proceedings; he wants Silverstein to prohibit that.

It’s not yet known how many claimants there will be in the bankruptcy case. Some lawyers say the number could approach 10,000 by Nov. 16, the deadline that was set Monday for abuse victims to file claims.

More than 12,000 boys have been molested by 7,800 abusers since the 1920s, according to Boy Scout files revealed in court papers. Most of the more recent cases date to the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, before the Boy Scouts adopted mandatory criminal background checks and abuse prevention training and protocols for all staff and volunteers.

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