Pennsylvania Senate committee Tuesday to consider bill extending statute of limitations on filing child sex abuse charges |

Pennsylvania Senate committee Tuesday to consider bill extending statute of limitations on filing child sex abuse charges

HARRISBURG — The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet on Tuesday to consider a bill to extend the statute of limitations on filing child sexual abuse charges, the panel’s lawyer said.

The committee chairman, meanwhile, stepped aside to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

If the bill is approved, an amendment is expected to kill a provision allowing retroactive lawsuits to be filed until the potential victim turns 50.

A copy of the amendment was not available Monday night, said Patrick Cawley, counsel to the committee.

A House-passed bill would extend the age for filing civil lawsuits from 30 to 50 and prevent organizations from claiming immunity if they act with gross negligence.

A House-passed the bill after a statewide grand jury report in March that found widespread abuse by priests over several decades in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery County, recused himself from participation to eliminate any perception of a conflict of interest. He denied an actual conflict.

Victim advocates said Greenleaf should not have presided at a Senate hearing two weeks ago that they claim was stacked against them. Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Reading, the bill’s sponsor, said that hearing smacked of a “setup,” which Greenleaf’s staff denied.

Greenleaf’s law firm previously represented a monastic order in a civil suit alleging abuse. Since that hearing, Greenleaf said he learned his firm, Elliott Greenleaf, is being paid by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, to represent a witness in a child abuse sexual lawsuit.

“I have no personal or private interest in either of these cases, nor did I know of their existence,” he said.

“Perception and appearance in ethical matters are important — especially public perception of what legislators do in Harrisburg. In order to project a public perception, I voluntarily will no longer participate in any further legal proceedings on HB 1947, nor will I vote on the bill,” Greenleaf said.

Said Rozzi: “I congratulate him on doing the right thing.”

Rozzi, who says he was raped by a priest as a teenager, said members of the committee might have been “unduly influenced” at the hearing against the retroactive provision.

Rozzi asked the committee in a letter to “end the game playing and pure chicanery driven by special interest groups” and move the bill without amendments.

Brad Bumsted is the Tribune-Review’s state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 and [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.