A Client’s Crisis Becomes a Legal Crisis: A Domestic Violence Ruling Goes Global in LAWYERING THROUGH CRISIS: UNDERSTANDING THE PROFESSIONAL ROLE OF LAWYERS AS PROBLEM SOLVERS IN EMERGENCIES (eds. Eric K. Stern and Ray Brescia) (invited contributor, forthcoming)
26 Pages Posted:
Date Written: September 21, 2020
In 2005, the Supreme Court issued a vexing decision in Castle Rock v. Gonzales, finding that a domestic violence victim had no property interest in the enforcement of her restraining order, and thus the police had no constitutional duty to enforce the order under the 14th Amendment. The case involved a tragic set of facts: six years earlier, Jessica Gonzales’ three daughters were killed after being abducted by their father, in violation of a domestic violence restraining order. Gonzales repeatedly called the police for help and showed them a restraining order against her estranged husband, but the police disregarded her entreaties, and did virtually nothing. The Supreme Court’s Castle Rock decision precipitated a legal crisis in the women’s and anti-gender violence community. Advocates feared it would send a signal to police officers that restraining orders and mandatory arrest laws – which had been enacted in over thirty states in the 1980s and 1990s specifically in response to police inaction in the domestic violence context – need not be enforced. The decision also precipitated a personal crisis for Jessica Gonzales, who stood in disbelief that her country’s legal system provided no avenue for relief or a remedy for the grave harms she and her daughters suffered.
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