As part of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) bankruptcy proceedings, survivors of child sexual abuse within the organization have until November 16, 2020, to file a claim. To make sure all victims are aware of their rights, many law firms have released advertisements on television and over social media urging survivors to come forward and file a claim before time runs out.
The BSA, however, has recently complained about these ads, stating that they are confusing and misleading. The organization requested Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein, who is overseeing the bankruptcy proceedings, restrict the ads. Judge Silverstein subsequently declined the order.
BSA Objects to “Misleading” Ads from Victims’ Attorneys
Amidst declining membership and a rising number of sexual abuse lawsuits, the BSA sought bankruptcy protection back in February 2020. The bankruptcy court established the November 16, 2020 deadline for filing claims, and also required the BSA to produce a notification program to target potential abuse victims with print, television, radio, and online advertisements. That program is expected to reach about 110 million people.
The BSA complained, however, that some law firms have engaged in their own advertising campaigns, and that many of these contain false and misleading information, including the following:
- That victims need to contact a lawyer to file a claim form (victims have the choice to file their own forms)
- That victims can file a form anonymously (victims must provide personal information on the form, but that information will be shared only within the court and legal personnel, not with the public)
- That financial compensation for abuse victims is ensured and significant (it is unclear at this point how much victims will be paid, and compensation is based upon a review of a claim)
The BSA asked the judge to send a cease-and-desist letter to the law firms producing these types of advertisements and to supplement her previous order to clarify that the notifications and ads approved in the order (that the BSA is producing) are the only ones allowed to be directed at potential claimants.
The judge held a hearing on the matter on August 31, 2020.
Judge Declines to Restrict Ads
During that hearing, Judge Silverstein declined to approve the BSA proposed order to restrict the ads. She noted that the order was “incredibly broad” and raised concerns about First Amendment issues.
“I need to understand how I can prohibit this type of speech,” she said.
The attorneys argued that the real goal behind the BSA’s actions is to minimize the number of claims being filed against them. The BSA stated that assertion was false.
The BSA Claim Form requires information about the abuse, where it happened, who committed it, and any other details that may be helpful to the case. For questions and concerns, consult a BSA abuse attorney.