Editor’s Note: Hit pause on Nassar bills
The pressure is growing on Michigan lawmakers to punish perverts like former Michigan State sports Dr. Larry Nassar and the institutions that enabled them — and in doing so offer victims some sort of justice. The Legislature should put in place a framework that will guard against future abuse (especially of children), but it must be careful not to take the legislation to an extreme.
The bills that passed swiftly out of the Senate a few weeks ago have raised plenty of alarms from an array of groups, including business, religious and educational institutions. And lawmakers should listen to those concerns, most of which revolve around Senate Bill 872 that would significantly extend the state’s statute of limitations and include retroactive provisions with implications far beyond MSU.
Although that bill was slightly amended prior to passage, it wasn’t changed enough to alleviate core problems.
Lawmakers are feeling intense pressure from Nassar’s many victims and their advocates to pass the legislation as it stands. The victims, including Rachael Denhollander who first publicly accused Nassar of abuse, were influential in crafting the legislation spearheaded by Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage.
The Senate language would extend the statute of limitations for filing a sexual misconduct civil lawsuit to 30 years for minors and 10 years for adults, and it would be retroactive back to 1997 for abused minors. Victims would have one year to file a claim. The statue would be extended for criminal cases, too, but not retroactive.
Trial lawyers, who would see a boon if the legislation passed, are getting involved. A California lawyer who specializes in childhood sexual abuse civil cases has been working with lawmakers.
According to sources close to the negotiations, lawmakers with reservations are being labeled as “no better than Nassar.” That kind of bullying isn’t helpful, and the consequences of this legislation are extensive enough that the bills demand a more thorough discussion.
House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, has said passing the bills will be a priority following lawmakers’ return from spring break next week — including those related to the statute of limitations. Other chamber members such as Law and Justice Committee Chair Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, have expressed a more cautious tone. Kesto has said he wants justice for the survivors but also wishes to prevent unintended consequences. That’s a better approach.