April 30, 2020: Advocates for victims sexually abused in the Boy Scouts filed six new lawsuits this week in Montana.
Each of the lawsuits named the Montana Council of the Boy Scouts of America as Defendants. The Montana Council is based in Great Falls, Montana. According to its website, the Montana Council, “founded on September 1, 1973, . . . was the result of the merger of four councils (Western Montana, Yellowstone, North Central Montana and Vigilante Area Council.”
The law firms of Edmiston & Colton and Crew Janci LLP brought the suits on behalf of the victims. The firms have previously litigated cases against the Boy Scouts for abuse in Great Falls. Prior to this week’s suits, the firms already had another case pending alleging sexual abuse of scouts by decorated Scout Leader Clare Conroy (deceased) of Hamilton, MT.
Crew Janci LLP, based in Portland, Oregon, has represented over 100 victims of abuse in litigation against the Boy Scouts across the country over the last decade. Attorneys from the Crew Janci LLP firm were part of the team that won a $19.9 million verdict against the Boy Scouts in Portland in 2010. That trial forced the first public release of a large portion of the Boy Scouts’ secret internal “perversion files” on pedophile scout leaders.
At least two of this week’s suits involve abuse allegations against a perpetrator with a now-publicly-available “perversion file.” Two victims allege abuse by Roger S. Maddox of Great Falls. According to the now-publicly-available Boy Scout file, Maddox was a member of Montana’s Air National Guard when the Scouts created a secret file on him in 1987. According to the file, Maddox was charged with felony sexual assault of a fourteen-year-old boy in 1986. At that time, Boy Scout officials noted that Maddox had “periodically been registered with troops since 1970.” The 1987 Boy Scouts’ file on Maddox does not reveal any effort by the organization to investigate or identify earlier victims in scouting.
The other new suits filed this week stem from abuse by several other Montana scout leaders:
- One alleges abuse by Scout Leader Michael Rangel in the Forsyth, Montana area;
- One alleges abuse by Scout Leader Robert Batch in a Helena-area troop;
- One alleges abuse by Scout Leader Raymond Reinig in another Helena-area troop; and
- One alleges abuse by a scout leader for a troop affiliated with Malmstrom Air Force Base (including abuse at Camp Napi near Glacier National Park).
It is unclear whether any of these other alleged perpetrators were the subject of secret files at Boy Scout headquarters. “We can’t be sure, because the Boy Scouts have admitted to destroying many of their files. And, in other situations, they simply did not create a file even when they learned of allegations of abuse,” said victims’ attorney Peter Janci.
All of the suits allege that before each plaintiff suffered abuse, the Montana Council and its predecessors “received multiple reports of other adult male Scout Leaders using their positions of trust and authority to groom and abuse boy scouts.”
“Our Montana clients in today’s lawsuits have claims against the Boy Scouts of America national corporation as well as the Montana Council. However, we are now prohibited from filing lawsuits against the national organization in Montana state court because of the BSA’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing,” said attorney Stephen Crew, one of the attorneys for the victims.
The national Boy Scouts corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware’s federal bankruptcy court in February; its more than 270 local chapters (called “local councils”) did not file bankruptcy at that time. Now, for purposes of the Boy Scouts of America’s bankruptcy, the attorneys are representing hundreds more victims who were abused in the Boy Scouts.
Attorneys say that for Montana victims, time is of the essence. “We are filing these cases against the Montana Council of the Boy Scouts of America now because Montana’s one-year statute of limitations ‘lookback window’ is closing next week. Unless the legislature decides to extend that law to allow more sexual abuse victims access to justice, victims who do not file suit before May 6th could be shut out of the justice system,” said victim’s attorney Shane Colton of the Edmiston & Colton law firm in Billings, Montana.
Montana is not the only state with a pending statute of limitations window period running. California, New Jersey, New York and other states all have active windows right now that allow victims to file suit, regardless of how long ago the abuse happened. The Crew Janci law firm represent dozens of boy scout abuse survivors in California, New York, and New Jersey.
“Many survivors and advocates worked long and hard to get statute of limitations reforms passed in these states. Whatever the intent, the reality is that the Boy Scouts’ bankruptcy filing will override the work of the legislature in several of these states and impose much shorter time limitations for victims of abuse in the Scouts to bring their claims,” said Stephen Crew, one of the attorneys for the victims.
Meanwhile, attorneys say that many more of these types of suits against scouting’s local councils may be coming soon, across the country.
“We think it’s very likely we could see hundreds of similar lawsuits filed against the Boy Scouts’ local councils around the United States. The local councils and Boy Scouts national have always been hand in glove when it comes to operating the scouting program. Now, when the law finally allows victims to come forward, the Scouts are trying to create the impression that the local councils are totally separate entities – and that local council assets should be shielded from victims. It’s a corporate shell game – plain and simple,” said Peter Janci of Crew Janci LLP.
The participation of the local councils in compensating victims of abuse in scouting is a question of increasing importance now that the Boy Scouts national corporation has filed for bankruptcy. There are over 270 local councils around the United States that are estimated to own billions of dollars in assets.
“The Boy Scouts’ bankruptcy is enormous in scale. According to the Scouts, 130 million children have participated in scouting since its inception. Today, we have victims contacting us who are in their 80s all the way down to victims who are still minors. We could see as many as 10,000 victims file claims in this bankruptcy. These hurting people deserve meaningful acknowledgement and just compensation. The assets of the Boy Scouts’ local chapters will need to be ‘on the table’ to accomplish that,” said attorney Stephen Crew.
As for Montana, according to recent reports, the Montana Council holds as much as $25 million in property. Attorneys for the victims in this week’s suits say the local council assets should be available, if necessary, to help compensate victims. “The Montana Council helped supervise all of these troops. And one of our clients was abused at a Scout camp that was owned and operated by the local council. Under all of these circumstances, the Montana Council simply must be meaningfully involved in any resolution of our clients’ claims,” said Shane Colton, attorney for the victims.
Anyone with information about the accused perpetrators is asked to contact the victims’ lawyers at 1-888-407-0224.