Theis Squares Off With Nassar Accuser On Proposed Statute Of Limitation Bills
May 9, 2018
A local lawmaker and others are expressing concerns about statute of limitation bills designed to protect victims in the in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
Senate lawmakers and victims of the former sports doctor who treated Michigan State University athletes and U.S. Olympians announced the 10-bill package in February, and the Senate Judiciary Committee quickly passed the bills the next afternoon. Hearings got underway in the Michigan House of Representatives Law and Justice Committee Tuesday, with lawmakers raising various concerns.
Victims who helped draft the bills were among those testifying, including former gymnast Rachael Denhollander who filed the first criminal complaint against Nassar. Under the proposal, the law would apply retroactively to 1997 - the date complaints against Nasser surfaced. He was sentenced this year to decades in prison for sexual abuse. The bills would extend the state statue of limitations from 10 to 30 years for criminal cases, from three to 10 years for adults and 30 years for children for civil cases.
Analysts say the legislation could prompt a significant increase in litigation and costs, but also note the difficulty in defending a complaint that long ago. Others say it could increase the prospect of wrongful convictions or bankrupt institutions. Universities, municipal groups, religious organizations, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and others have all expressed concerns about the unintended consequences of the bills.
Lawmakers including Republican State Representative Lana Theis of Brighton Township also raised concerns about the length of time, with Theis pointing out schools are not even required to keep records for more than 30 years. Denhollander testified anyone bringing civil or criminal action would have to provide evidence, but it was pointed out that a civil action only requires a preponderance of evidence, as opposed to a criminal case. Denhollander questioned the legislators priorities. "What is more important here? Stopping childhood sexual assault and giving victims access to the justice system or institutions and corporations? You are playing a balancing game between children and dollars, children and institutions."
Theis says taking time to ensure a fully vetted policy is their duty as legislators, which acknowledges the interests of the citizens of Michigan when considering such sweeping changes. Theis told WHMI it’s a shame the deliberative process is being characterized negatively. She says the bills propose monumental changes to both criminal and civil statutes so they must be thorough and ask the questions that need to be asked to ensure they are enacting good public policy. (JM/JK)