AUGUSTA, Maine (AP)&nbsp- Maine’s highest court is being asked to decide whether supervisors can be held liable for an unlimited time period for acts of sexual abuse committed by people who work for them.

The case stems from damage claims filed by two men who were allegedly abused by Roman Catholic priests during the 1980s.

Superior Court Justice Joseph Jabar on Tuesday decided to forward to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court the question of whether the priests’ supervisors can be held accountable indefinitely.

Attorneys for the Diocese of Portland, who requested the supreme court ruling, say claims must be brought within statutory time limits. They say supervisors should be held liable for the actions of individuals for either six years, or at most 12 years, from the time the alleged conduct occurred.

An attorney for the plaintiffs, Keith Varner, opposed going to the supreme court for a ruling, and says the plaintiffs are deliberately delaying the case.

Maine law allows lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of minors to be brought at any time, and the plaintiffs say the law should apply to supervisors as well as perpetrators. The issue came up during proceedings involving two lawsuits filed last year in Kennebec County Superior Court.

The suits were filed by William J. Picher of Augusta and Steven F. Boyden of Villa Ricci, Ga. Picher claims the chancellor and co-chancellors of the Portland Diocese failed to protect him from sexual molestation by a priest from 1986 to 1988 when Picher was a student in an Augusta Catholic school.

Boyden sued a priest and the diocese in a case that claims he was sexually abused when the priest was stationed at a parish in Westbrook. The suit says the bishop should have known the priest was abusing minors and protected Boyden.