Court overturns Boy Scouts abuse ruling - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Court overturns Boy Scouts abuse ruling

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Posted: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 3:03 pm | Updated: 1:27 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The Idaho Supreme Court has ruled against three men -- including one from Mesa -- who claim they were sexually abused by a Boy Scout leader, saying the decades-old allegations are not valid under Idaho's statute of limitations.

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Supreme Court has ruled against three men who sought to use a new statute of limitations law to pursue a child sex abuse lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America and one of its Idaho chapters.

The decision issued Tuesday is a legal blow for Ronald Morgan, of Mesa and two men identified as John Doe I and John Doe II, who sued the organization in 2007 weeks after Idaho extended its statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims.

The ruling focused on a pretrial decision by 4th District Judge Michael McClaughlin, who said the case could proceed under the new statute even though the allegations dated to the 1970s and 1980s.

But the justices unanimously overturned the lower court, saying the amendments to the statute were not specifically tailored to be applied to such old claims.

"The Boy Scouts of America cannot be held accountable for behavior that was not actionable at the time it occurred," according to the opinion written by justice Jim Jones.

Morgan and the two other men claim they were sexually molested by former Scout leader James Schmidt, and that the Boy Scouts of America and its Boise-based Ore-Ida Council knew of Schmidt's behavior but failed to do anything about it.

Schmidt is not named in the lawsuit, but he was convicted in the mid-1980s of child molestation after police interviewed parents and 16 Boy Scouts who said they had been abused or knew of abuse.

The three men filed their lawsuit in July 2007, weeks after the Idaho statute of limitations was amended to allow victims to file claims up to five years after discovering or realizing they were molested as children. In 1989, Idaho lawmakers changed the rules to allow victims of child sex abuse to file civil claims within five years after turning 18. Previously, victims had to file claims within two years of the episode.

Plaintiffs attorney Timothy Walton said the ruling marks a setback for a law designed to help abuse victims.

"We are digesting the opinion to determine what our options are and what we'll do next," Walton said. "I'm not sure we're ready to throw in the towel."

Attorneys for the Boy Scouts of America and its Ore-Ida Council did not immediately return messages left by The Associated Press.

After filing the lawsuit two years ago, Morgan told reporters gathered at a news conference in Boise that it took years to realize that the fondling he received as a child had impacted his life.

In the lawsuit, Morgan claims he was abused in either 1979 or 1980, when he was a member of a Nampa troop and Schmidt was the troop's assistant scoutmaster.

Morgan and the others also contend Ore-Ida Council received several complaints about Schmidt's inappropriate conduct in 1979, including complaints from parents and written statements alleging he had put his hands down boys' pants at scouting events.

In court papers, Ore-Idaho Council attorneys acknowledged receiving complaints about Schmidt's behavior in 1979 and that organization administrators met with Schmidt and got him to agree not to assist on camping outings, but could not build a strong enough case to put him on inactive status.

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