The American Association for Justice (AAJ), the national trial lawyers bar, had its first sexual assault education seminar and litigation group meeting at its annual convention this year, which was held in Denver Colorado. On July 7th and 8th lawyers from all over the country gathered to hear education about being trauma informed, how to get justice for victims assaulted by medical professionals and victims assaulted at universities and athletic programs. Melissa Hague spoke about the different mechanisms the civil court system has in place to protect survivors of sexual assault such as anonymous filings, pre-filing mediations, and sealed dockets.
Melissa Hague, along with attorney Jessica Pride from San Diego, was instrumental in starting the Sexual Assault Litigation Group among the national trial lawyers bar. This litigation group provides a forum for lawyers from all over the country to come together to collaborate and discuss how to best represent sexual assault victims and how to protect them during the litigation process. Through this litigation group lawyers who represent survivors are able to share their experiences in litigating assault cases. The litigation group is also a resource for lawyers to share favorable court rulings and opinions so they can be duplicated across the country.
There was a strong focus on the legal rights of sexual assault victims in civil courts at AAJ’s annual convention this year. Judge Aquilina, who presided over the sentencing hearing of Larry Nassar, was the keynote speaker at the Women’s Caucus brunch where she addressed hundreds of women trial lawyers from across the country. She spoke to them about the struggles strong career-oriented females have to cope with in male dominated industries. Judge Aquilina explained that the reason she gave each survivor the opportunity to give a statement at the sentencing hearing was because she knew it was an important part of their healing process to have the strength to address Nassar face-to-face.
The next day, AAJ awarded John Manly and USA Olympic and NCAA athletes with the Steven J. Sharp Public Service Award. John Manly represented over 100 athletes in a civil against Larry Nassar, the former USA gymnastics team doctor and Michigan State University sports medicine clinic doctor. John Manly and the athletes were honored for their courage to speak up against their abuser and the institutional negligence that perpetuated the abuse. Their contributions to the civil justice system has changed the legal landscape for these types of cases. The strong voices of these survivors and many others inspired the state of Michigan to extend the length of time future assault victims have to bring a civil lawsuit in the court system.
To find out more information about the time period survivors have to bring a claim against Larry Nassar and MSU, click HERE.
“These athletes helped inspire many survivors of sexual harassment and assault to come forward and speak out against their abusers. That’s why it’s critical that we defend and strengthen civil justice in America by protecting constitutional rights and access to the courts.” Kathleen Nastri, 2017-18 President of AAJ.