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Attorneys for victims of sexual abuse say they aren't deterred by Boy Scouts bankruptcy

Boy Scouts of America

The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy Tuesday under the weight of hundreds of childhood sexual abuse cases filed against the organization. Seattle-based attorney Jason Amala, who is handling 75 cases in New York, said the news is a mixed bag for his clients.

Amala said the news that the Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy is a form of validation for his clients because the declaration means the national organization is admitting that many of the incidents are real.

“It’s good news, because it’s difficult for the Boy Scouts to claim they did not have a big problem if they are filing for bankruptcy,” Amala said. “On some level, this is the Boy Scouts accepting responsibility for what happened.”

But on the downside, it also means that many of the confidential files on abuse allegations that were kept by the Boy Scouts since the 1920s might not be accessible to survivors and their attorneys who are trying to build a case.

“The files that are out there are incomplete,” said Amala, who added that the files made public so far are from 1965 to the early 1990s.

Amala said it’s important for survivors to know that there will still be money available to pay settlements in lawsuits, even though the group is declaring bankruptcy. He says the Boy Scouts have reported over $1 billion in assets.

The bankruptcy judge could further limit the time some New York survivors have to file lawsuits.

Under the state’s Child Victims Act, those over 55 who have aged out of the statute of limitations have a one-year window of opportunity to file civil cases. That window ends Aug. 14. But the judge could potentially set an even narrower window to accept new cases.

Local Boy Scouts councils around the state have so far not followed the lead of the national organization and remain solvent, though Amala says it’s likely that many will file bankruptcy in the coming days.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.