"It is good to be King," writes Rep. Greg Lavelle, Republican leader in Delaware's House of Representatives, in response to my Sunday Inquirer column, which compared the current efforts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to allow people who say they were raped or molested by Catholic priests many years ago to sue their local dioceses for cash damages, as happened in Delaware back in the late 2000s.
Lavelle is talking about the way state law protects public schools and school employees, hit by growing reports of statutory rape of students by staff, from the level of complaints and damages that drove Delaware's Catholic diocese to seek bankruptcy protection.
He challenges a statement in my column from plaintiff's lawyer Thomas Neuberger, who suggested that public schools pay student rape survivors less than Catholic institutions did because public schools haven't kept records on offenders as they move from place to place -- highly useful evidence -- like Catholic dioceses do.
Lavelle (who has kids in both public and Catholic schools) tells me Delaware's state law actually forbids holding public schools to the same level of fiscal accountability (and cash payouts) as Catholic schools. Public schools enjoy "sovereign immunity," Lavelle says. That's based on the old legal concept that the sovereign (the King, in English common law) can do no wrong; it's his kingdom; and the state, in America, is his successor.