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Sterilization lawsuit against state likely barred, AG says

Two unlikely political bedfellows have gained additional ammunition from the state attorney general in their bid to compensate victims of Virginia’s involuntary sterilization program.

Del. Patrick Hope – a Democrat – and Del. Bob Marshall – a Republican – joined forces this year to push for state payments to surviving victims of the discredited 55-year program to sterilize citizens deemed defective by the state.

Their bill died in committee, in part because opponents suggested victims had other ways to file claims against the state. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli now confirms that one avenue of compensation, a lawsuit against the state, would not be likely to succeed.

In an official opinion requested by Hope and Marshall, Cuccinelli said the Virginia Tort Claims Act allowing lawsuits based on actions by state employees was enacted after the sterilization program ended. The VTCA is not retroactive, Cuccinelli said.

The Cuccinelli opinion comes too late to help Hope and Marshall with their compensation proposal this year, but Marshall said another effort could come in 2014.

“If Del. Hope’s friends fail in their effort to unseat me, I will reintroduce the bill,” Marshall said.

Hope said the two might approach Gov. Bob McDonnell to request the use of budget surplus funds to compensate victims. He said its likely only a handful of victims would come forward to claim the suggested $50,000 awards. “It’s not that expensive for the commonwealth,” he said.

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