Supreme Court Decision Weakening Restraining Orders Short-Shrifted in the News
In its last day before summer recess, the Supreme Court issued decisions on six cases, only two of which, the decisions to outlaw copies of the Ten Commandments at a Kentucky courthouse and to protect copyrighted material in Internet file sharing, were widely covered by the media. In a troubling but all too familiar trend in media reporting, Castle Rock, Colorado v. Gonzales – a case that weakens enforcement of restraining orders in domestic violence cases – was largely ignored.
In a 7-2 decision, the Court ruled that Jessica Gonzales did not have a constitutional right to police enforcement of her mandatory court-ordered restraining order against her husband. Gonzales had filed a $30 million lawsuit against the Castle Rock, Colorado police department for failing to respond to five phone calls she made reporting a violation of the restraining order. The town of Castle Rock, backed by the Bush administration and several police organizations, won their argument that it would be unrealistic to enforce every restraining order. With the vast majority of restraining orders requested by women, according to the National Center for Violent Crime, the Castle Rock decision puts women’s lives in jeopardy and potentially lets police departments off the hook for failing to enforce mandatory orders.
FMF President Eleanor Smeal said of the ruling, “It is upsetting that this decision, which affects so many women and children, has been virtually ignored by the press. Even when women manage to pass tougher legislation, we can’t get it enforced. Mandatory restraining orders aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on if police officers are not required to enforce them.”
The National Center for Women and Policing joined Women in Federal Law Enforcement, the National Black Police Association, the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, the National Center for Women & Policing, and Americans for Effective Law Enforcement, Inc. in filing an amicus brief in support of Gonzales’ claim that her due process rights were violated.
The Castle Rock ruling comes at a time when the 2005 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is up for re-authorization. This landmark piece of legislation, first passed by Congress in 1994, provides federal funding and protections for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault and assistance to victims, including provisions for improvements in law enforcement and judicial response. Now more than ever, the re-authorization of VAWA 2005 will be critical to protecting women and their children from violence.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .