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Clergy Abuse in New Jersey

The five Catholic Dioceses of New Jersey named 188 priests credibly accused of child sexual abuse. As investigations continue, state lawmakers and survivors are seeking justice for abuse victims.

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New Jersey Priest Abuse Lawsuits

It can take years for a survivor of sexual assault to process the trauma. For this reason, it’s common for survivors to miss the legal deadline to file a suit against their abusers. In 2019, New Jersey lawmakers passed several new laws aimed to remedy this issue. Survivors now have more opportunities to seek justice in the state of New Jersey.

New Jersey Legislation Affecting Victims

  • This bill lays down guidelines of sexual assault as they apply to students between the ages of 18 and 22.
  • This bill establishes the “Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights.”
  • This bill creates a 15-member task force housed under the Department of Education. The group is tasked with finding ways to reduce child sexual abuse in New Jersey.
  • This bill extends the New Jersey statute of limitations to file sexual abuse claims.
  • The bill opens a 2-year window for time-barred victims to file civil claims.
  • This bill expands the types of potential defendants a victim can name in a suit. Victims are now able to name certain types of organizations and institutions.

New Jersey Clergy Abuse Statute of Limitations

Like most states, New Jersey has two distinct statutes of limitations applicable to child sexual abuse. One applies to criminal charges and one is used for civil claims.

A statute of limitations (SOL) is a legal deadline. SOLs vary based on the jurisdiction, the crime and the intended legal action (criminal charges versus a civil claim).

Criminal Charges – There is no criminal statute of limitations for sexual assault in the state of New Jersey. If a victim reports the abuse to law enforcement, the State may choose to bring criminal charges against the abuser.

Civil Claim (or Lawsuit) – An adult victim of sexual abuse has 7 years to file a civil lawsuit against his or her abuser. A civil claim is one that can be brought by the victim seeking monetary compensation from the abuser. A civil claim can be filed against a responsible institution as well.

If the victim is a minor (under the age 18) at the time of the abuse:

  • The victim must file a civil claim before his or her 55th birthday.
  • The victim must file a civil claim within 7 years of realizing the abuse caused harm.

Before New Jersey lawmakers extended the legal deadline in 2019, victims of sexual assault had only two years to file a legal claim. For someone abused as a minor, he or she had to file a claim before turning 20 years of age.

What Is the Difference Between a Criminal Case and Civil Lawsuit?

If the abuser (defendant) is found guilty in a criminal case, he or she may face probation or time in prison. The victim (plaintiff) would only receive money if the court requires the defendant to pay restitution to the plaintiff.

If the abuser (defendant) is found liable in a civil case, he or she must pay a monetary award to the victim (plaintiff). The amount of the award is determined by the jury. The award covers any damages caused by the abuse.

New Jersey Legal “Look Back” Window

Bill S477 not only extended the legal deadline for survivors but it also opened a two-year “look back” window. For two years, anyone can file a civil claim of sexual abuse in the state of New Jersey. This includes victims whose case exceeds the new 7-year legal deadline.

The 2-year revival window opened on December 1, 2019. Victims of sexual abuse may file claims until November 30, 2021. S477 applies to claims of both child and adult sexual abuse.

Clergy Abuse Settlements in New Jersey

In the past decade, the five New Jersey Catholic Dioceses paid approximately $50 million to settle claims of child sexual abuse. To reduce the number of lawsuits against the Church, the dioceses created the Independent Victim Compensation Program (IVCP) in February 2019.

Independent Victim Compensation Program (IVCP)

The IVCP offers a settlement option to victims of clergy abuse in the New Jersey Dioceses. Anyone abused as a minor by a clergy member in the dioceses can file a compensation claim. If a victim accepts compensation through the program, the victim gives up their right to file a civil lawsuit against the dioceses in the future.

As of January 31, 2020, registration for the program is closed. 

For some victims, the IVCP offers several important benefits:

  • The IVCP is controlled by a third-party. Therefore, the responsible diocese can not reject or modify an applicant’s claim or settlement amount.
  • Applicants can remain anonymous through the process.
  • Less proof may be necessary to win compensation compared to the proof needed to win a lawsuit.

Critics of the program observed several drawbacks:

  • The amount of compensation awarded is generally less than an applicant could win through a lawsuit.
  • The responsible diocese compensates victims privately through the IVCP. This allows the diocese to avoid negative publicity that could occur during a trial.
  • To be eligible for the program, a victim had to be abused by a clergy member in the diocese. A victim abused by a “member of a religious order or lay teachers and employees of the NJ Dioceses” can not file a compensation claim through the IVCP. However, these victims could still file a lawsuit if the legal deadline has not expired.

Registration for the program began on June 15, 2019. Originally, applicants had to register by October 31, 2019. The registration date was later extended to January 31, 2020, and all claims had to be filed by February 15, 2020. It has now been extended to February 28, 2020.

Diocese in New Jersey Associated with the IVCP

The IVCP covers all claims against New Jersey priests accused of abuse within the following dioceses:

  • The Archdiocese of Newark
  • The Diocese of Camden
  • The Diocese of Metuchen
  • The Diocese of Paterson
  • The Diocese of Trenton

As of the last week of January 2020, the IVCP authorized $11 million in payouts to 69 applicants. Hundreds of applications are still being reviewed.

New Jersey IVCP August 2020 Update

The Diocese of Camden suspended its participation in the IVCP. The diocese pointed to lost revenue caused by COVID-19 restrictions as the reason behind the decision. The diocese claims it is “fast approaching a point where it will not be able to continue to borrow the funds necessary to pay the amounts awarded by the program.”

The Camden Diocese will pay any awards already determined by the program coordinators. However, all unresolved claims against the diocese will be paused for the foreseeable future. The ICVP will still continue reviewing and processing claims made against the Archdiocese of Newark, the Diocese of Metuchen, the Diocese of Paterson and the Diocese of Trenton.

Source: Courier Post

New Jersey Diocese Bankruptcy

In October 2020, the Diocese of Camden filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It was the first diocese in New Jersey to file since the passage of Bill S477.

Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan cited costly victim settlements and revenue lost during the pandemic as reasons behind the decision. According to the bishop, the diocese paid more than $8 million to victims before filing for bankruptcy.

List of Priests Accused in NJ

This list contains the names of clergy members and priests in the New Jersey Dioceses facing allegations of abuse. This list does not include staff members, volunteers or members of the dioceses facing similar allegations. If you believe the priest you are looking for is facing allegations in a different state, use our nationwide searchable database of accused priests.

If you do not see the name of the clergy member you are searching for, it does not mean you do not have a potential claim against the individual. As more information comes to light, more names may be added to the list.

If you or a loved one has been abused by a clergy member in the New Jersey Dioceses, do not hesitate to contact us about your legal rights. Regardless of whether or not the abuser is on the list, we want to hear from you. We want to help.

There are 82 accused clergy members from the Archdiocese of Newark, NJ:

New Jersey Clergy Abuse Victim Resources

Victims of sexual assault do not need to process the trauma alone. In the state of New Jersey, there are many resources and organizations a survivor can turn to when he or she needs help.

New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA)

NJCASA is a statewide advocacy organization working to support victims of sexual assault.

To speak to someone about your experience of sexual assault, call NJCASA’s 24-hour statewide hotline at 1-800-601-7200.

Every county in New Jersey has a sexual violence program represented by NJCASA. These programs provide free resources, such as crisis counseling and victim advocacy, to sexual assault victims. The expandable table below provides information on each county’s sexual violence program.

New Jersey Sexual Violence Programs by County

CountyFacility NamePhone Number(s)
AtlanticAvanzarHotline: 800-286-4184
Office: 609-601-9925
YWCA of Bergen County
Hotline: 201-487-2227
BurlingtonCONTACT of Burlington CountyHotline: 856-234-8888
Hotline: 866-234-5006
Office: 856-234-5484
CamdenServices Empowering the Rights of Victims (SERV)
Center for Family Services
Hotline: 1-866-295-SERV (7378)
Office: 856-964-1990
Cape MayC.A.R.A., Inc.Office: 609-522-6489
Toll-Free: 1-877-294-2272
CumberlandServices Empowering the Rights of Victims (SERV)
Center for Family Services
Hotline: 800-225-0196
Office: 856-696-2032
EssexSAVE of Essex County
Family Service League, Inc.
Hotline: 877-733-CARE (2273)
Office: 973-746-0800
GloucesterServices Empowering the Rights of Victims (SERV)
Center for Family Services
Hotline: 1-866-295-SERV (7378)
HudsonHudson S.P.E.A.K.S (Formerly known as Hudson County Rape Crisis Center)
CAREPOINT Foundation
Hotline: 201-795-5757
HunterdonSAFE in HunterdonHotline: 888-988-4033
Office: 908-788-7666
Toll-Free: 888-988-4033
MercerWomanspaceHotline: 609-394-9000
Office: 609-394-0136
MiddlesexMiddlesex County Center for EmpowermentHotline: 1-877-665-7273
Office: 732-321-1189
Monmouth180 Turning Lives AroundHotline: 888-264-7273
Office: 732-264-4111
MorrisAtlantic Behavioral HealthHotline: 973-829-0587
OceanSt. Francis Community CenterHotline: 609-494-1090
Office: 609-494-1554
PassaicPassaic County Women’s CenterHotline: 973-881-1450
Office: 973-881-0725
SalemSalem County Women’s ServicesHotline: 856-935-6655
SomersetSexual Assault Support Services (SASS),
Zufall Health Center
Hotline: 908-526-7444
Office: 908-526-2335
SussexDomestic Abuse & Sexual Assault Services (DASI)Hotline: 973-875-1211
TTY: 973-875-6369
Office: 973-579-2386
UnionUnion County Rape Crisis CenterHotline: 908-233-7273
TTY: 908-232-1435
WarrenDomestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Crisis Center (DASACC)Hotline: 908.453.4181
Office: 908.453.4121
Sources:New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault

New Jersey Dioceses’ Victim Assistance Coordinators

In an effort to respond appropriately to abuse allegations, each Catholic Diocese in New Jersey has a Victim Assistance Coordinator. This coordinator connects abuse victims with counseling and any other professional assistance necessary for the healing process.

New Jersey Priest Abuse FAQs

How Do I Report Sexual Abuse by a Priest in New Jersey?

If you or the suspected victim are in immediate danger, call the police. 

To report sexual abuse of a minor:

Call the New Jersey Child Protection and Permanency (CP&P) hotline at 1-877-NJ-ABUSE (652-2873).

According to New Jersey state law, any individual who suspects child abuse or neglect must report the situation to the CP&P immediately.

To report any sexual abuse:

Call the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA) 24-hour statewide hotline at 1-800-601-7200. They will connect you with the nearest sexual violence program in your county. For more information about NJCASA, visit our victim resources section above.

Statewide Clergy Abuse Investigation

Currently, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is investigating Catholic priest abuse in New Jersey. People may report cases of sexual abuse by a clergy member to the investigation by calling a special 24-hour hotline.

24-Hour Toll-Free Hotline: (855) 363-6548

Reporting the abuse to the state Attorney General’s Office does not prevent a victim from reporting the crime to law enforcement or the County Prosecutor’s Office for criminal prosecution.

Learn more about the investigation here >

Source: NJ.com

Can the Responsible Church or Diocese Be Sued?

Yes, the responsible church and/or diocese can be sued. Thanks, in part, to the recently enacted bill S477, religious organizations in New Jersey can be held accountable for, “…damage by a willful, wanton or grossly negligent act of commission or omission, including sexual assault…”

This means a survivor can sue both the abuser and the institution responsible for covering up the abuse. In situations of clergy abuse where the priest may have died before legal action could be taken, a victim can still sue the diocese where the abuse happened.

Determining who to sue is an important step in the legal process. In cases of institutionalized sexual abuse, victims may choose to name the abuser, the institution involved in perpetuating the crime, or another third-party responsible for harm to the victim.

Understanding an Act of Commission vs. Omission

An act of commission refers to an action taken. In the case of sexual abuse, an act of commission may refer to the act of abuse committed by the abuser.

An act of omission refers to an action not taken. In the case of sexual abuse, an act of omission can refer to several scenarios. Here are some examples:

  • A third-party individual fails to notify the authorities about the abuse. If the individual is required by law to report the abuse, this act of omission could result in criminal penalties.
  • A responsible institution fails to remove a known abuser from the ministry.

By recognizing both types of act, a survivor of sexual assault can identify those who were directly responsible for their abuse (the abuser) and those indirectly responsible (an institution that covered up the abuse). Survivors have a right to seek justice from both parties.

Source: Stanford Law

Do I Have to Currently Live in New Jersey to File a New Jersey Clergy Abuse Lawsuit?

No. A plaintiff does not need to live in the state of New Jersey to file a clergy abuse lawsuit in the state. However, there must be some connection in the case to New Jersey.

Examples of a notable legal connection include the following:

  • The abuse occurred in New Jersey.
  • The responsible institution is headquartered in New Jersey.

Once identified, this connection can dictate how a legal team handles each specific case.

Who Can File on Behalf of a Victim?

A victim’s estate can file a lawsuit on behalf of the victim. Additionally, any person with legal authority may act on the victim’s behalf. This may include a parent, guardian, or conservator.

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Ron Meneo, Managing Partner at Meneo Law Group.

Meneo Group managing partner: Ron Meneo

With more than 30 years of practice in product liability and personal injury law, The Meneo Law Group and its partners have helped clients obtain more than $20 billion in total compensation.

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