February 28, 2007
Lytton on Clergy Sexual Abuse Litigation
Timothy Lytton has posted a paper on SSRN entitled Clergy Sexual Abuse Litigation: The Policymaking Role of Tort Law. Here's the abstract:
By all accounts, the prevalence of clergy sexual abuse and its cover-up by Church officials represents a massive institutional failure. Obscured by all of this attention to the Church's failure is the largely untold story of the tort system's remarkable success in bringing the scandal to light in the first place, focusing attention on the need for institutional reform, and spurring Church leaders and public officials into action. Tort litigation framed the problem of clergy sexual abuse as one of institutional failure, and it placed that problem on the policy agendas of the Catholic Church, law enforcement, and state governments. This Article examines these framing and agenda-setting effects of clergy sexual abuse litigation. It argues that private lawsuits can have a powerful and beneficial effect on policymaking.
Several weeks ago, Lytton wrote a related article for the Boston Globe on the the church sexual abuse litigation, press coverage, and policy impact. Lytton has devoted himself to understanding "social policy" mass torts. Before turning his attention to sexual abuse cases, he was one of the country's leading experts on handgun litigation (I wrote a chapter for his book, Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts).
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