The Maryland Supreme Court has agreed to decide the constitutionality of a new state law that eliminated the statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits and allowed more people to sue the institutions that enabled their victimization.

The Child Victims Act of 2023 took effect on Oct. 1, 2023.

In a letter on Tuesday, Gregory Hilton, clerk of the Maryland Supreme Court, wrote that the case has been scheduled for oral argument in the September 2024 session. He also outlined a briefing schedule.

U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar previously sent a question about the constitutionality of the law to the Maryland Supreme Court arising from a lawsuit that a woman filed against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which alleges it was negligent and reckless and failed to protect her from sexual abuse in the 1980s at a congregation in Prince George’s County.

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Frederick Edvalson served as a minister, counselor and educator at the church in Camp Springs, the lawsuit states, despite being twice previously convicted of sexually abusing minors. He was then convicted in 1985 of sexually abusing the woman.

“It’s a good step toward getting this question resolved more quickly than you typically see, which is great,” said Nathaniel Foote, a partner at Andreozzi + Foote in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who represents the woman. “We feel strongly that the Supreme Court will ultimately decide this issue in favor of youth survivors across Maryland.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could not immediately be reached for comment.

People have filed lawsuits against state-run juvenile detention centers, schools and churches. Meanwhile, judges have issued conflicting rulings about whether the law is constitutional.

Before the law was set to take effect, the Archdiocese of Baltimore filed for bankruptcy.

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The Maryland Office of the Attorney General released a more than 450-page report that outlined decades of allegations of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the first Catholic diocese in the United States. Survivors of clergy sexual abuse have until May 31 to file a claim in the case.

”We’re exceptionally pleased that the court has taken it up and issued a prompt briefing and oral argument schedule,” said Rob Jenner, founder and managing partner of Jenner Law P.C., which has an office in Baltimore. He helped fight for the Child Victims Act of 2023 and represents survivors across Maryland.

“We think this is exactly what the litigants in the Child Victims Act need, is a quick resolution, so they know — thumbs-up or thumbs-down — whether the act is constitutional,” he added.

Teresa Lancaster, a survivor, activist and attorney in Maryland, said it was only a matter of time before the state’s highest court took up the case, but she described the development as wonderful.

Lancaster said she just got off the phone with a survivor who asked, “When are we going to know? Is our law going to be thrown out?”

”Once the Supreme Court decides this, it’s all systems go. Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief,” she said. “We need to get this done to put everyone’s mind at ease.”

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