Boy Scout councils under pressure to share sex abuse costs

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FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2020, file photo, Boy Scouts of America uniforms are displayed in the retail store at the headquarters for the French Creek Council of the Boy Scouts of America in Summit Township, Pa. Nine sex-abuse lawsuits were filed Tuesday, May 19 2020, 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. 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. (Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News via AP, File)

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.

One of the lawyers 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.

Two other firms, 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.