by Irvin Muchnick
On October 13, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a more relaxed set of deadlines for the filing of lawsuits against institutions by victims of sexual abuse. Adults who have claims dating from when they were minors now have a period of time past age 40 — not 26, as it was under the previous statute.
The full rundown of the provisions of Assembly Bill 218 can be found in this Sacramento Bee article: https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article236209553.html.
Obviously, for those seeking restitution a little bit later but short of “never,” the implications are huge. For followers of the sagas of USA Swimming and other culpable organizations, the new legal regime in the country’s most populous state, with probably the largest chunk of legacy abuse cases, also marks a sea change in public officials’ attitudes.
Six years ago Newsom’s predecessor Jerry Brown had vetoed a statute of limitations reform bill with similar provisions. The 2013 measure had passed both houses of the state legislature despite heavy lobbying by, principally, the Catholic Church and swimming. (Brown is an ex-seminarian.)
Now, with the enactment of AB 218, the floodgates are open for numerous important new lawsuits against USA Swimming that had been barred because of the passage of time.
Additionally, in at least the third recent major media hit on swimming’s global legal troubles, the New York Times last week covered a new case that has nothing whatsoever to do with the nuances of statute of limitations: a civil action against the Stockton Swim Club, and USA Swimming and its regional affiliate Pacific Swimming, subsequent to the criminal guilty plea of the club’s CEO and head coach, Shunichi Fujishima, in the abuse of a 12-year-old starting in 2017. See the New York Times account at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/15/sports/usa-swimming-sexual-abuse.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Sports.
Adding to the depth of reporting by the Wall Street Journal on a federal grand jury investigation, in the Southern District of New York, of irregularities in swimming’s insurance practices, the Times notes a California state government probe: “The attorney general in California has also requested files from U.S.A. Swimming on at least a dozen coaches, according to U.S.A. Swimming emails reviewed by The Times.”
A point not mentioned by the Times: the Stockton case also implicitly involves immigration issues. Fujishima is a Japanese national.
If you think I’m headed toward the George Gibney matter, you are right. Sooner or later the government leakers who have been investigating USA Swimming for a long time, some for many years — yet only say so intermittently and conveniently to the Orange County Registers, Wall Street Journals, and New York Timeses of the world — will be forced to get around to the fact that members of the task force of the New York federal grand jury case also have been eyeing Gibney and his controversially untouched permanent resident alien status.