ALBANY — A boy scout law firm is seeking to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections for the Boy Scouts of America because of widespread sexual abuse of its members and alumni by the group's leaders.
A New York law firm, Schulte Roth & Zabel, filed a petition Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, asking Judge Mary Walrath to put the entire organization into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The petition is part of the firm's suit against the Boy Scouts, alleging it knew of the problems and failed to make adequate disclosures to the Scouts' governing body.
The action is just the latest in a series of lawsuits brought by attorneys for clients who claim to have been sexually abused by former Scout leaders or other Scouts, in what appears to be the largest wave of litigation to date against the organization. According to the law firm, 14,000 claims have been filed in some 50 cases against the Boy Scouts across the country.
The Scouts have said in court papers it didn't try to quash the suits. A spokesman said the group isn't going to comment on the petition or the lawsuits until they have reviewed the petition.
"As I've indicated previously, the abuse that so many have suffered is incomprehensible to us as a nation," New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement. "Notwithstanding these tremendous losses, we will never stop fighting until every survivor has the justice they deserve."
The victim's group that has filed the suit in New York state court, known as the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests, said there is a "moral and legal imperative to fight these irresponsible acts."
"We will not stop until every young boy and every adult is safe from sexual predators within these organizations," said Barbara Dorris, president of SNAP.
The harm is done by scouting leaders and volunteers, primarily those in the boys' councils, Dorris said, through abuses by adult volunteers of all ages, including abuse that is repeated over time.
Nearly two dozen lawsuits have been filed in New York state court against the Boy Scouts since 2015 by the Survivors Network, the real estate firm who had been managing the group's properties and three other plaintiffs, seeking to represent victims. Most allege sex abuse, including sexual and physical abuse.
In recent years, the Boy Scouts of America has taken steps to respond more quickly to abuse claims. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Seattle attorney general have demanded more openness and cooperation with law enforcement. The group has agreed to adopt policy to terminate employees who are known to have abused children.
The Boy Scouts are the nation's largest nonprofit youth organization, having served more than 1.3 million boys and young men since 1910. The more than 2,500 youth groups, Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops and Venturing companies serve 3.6 million youth members nationwide.