Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

Fallo c85566 Supreme Court of Buenos Aires (2002)

Female infanticide and feticide

A married woman with three children was allowed to undergo a therapeutic abortion for an anencephalic fetus for health reasons. To do so, she had to file a request with the hospital and the court, which had a formal hearing to determine that the rights of the fetus were being respected and that the procedure was strictly for health reasons. The decision was appealed to a higher court, which affirmed the family court’s decision. They cited international law to support the decision, citing both the mother’s rights to raise a family as she saw fit and the rights of the anencephalic fetus. Along with Argentinean Supreme Court, the most cited laws were the Convención de los Derechos del Niño and the Convención Americana sobre los Derechos Humanos. While this ruling may not seem progressive by American standards, abortion is still essentially outlawed in Argentina.

A una mujer casada con tres hijos se le permitió someterse a un aborto terapéutico para un feto anencefálico por razones de salud. Para hacerlo, tuvo que presentar una solicitud ante el hospital y el tribunal, que tuvo una audiencia formal para determinar que se respetaban los derechos del feto y que el procedimiento era estrictamente por razones de salud. La decisión fue apelada ante un tribunal superior, que confirmó la decisión del tribunal de familia. Citaron el derecho internacional para respaldar la decisión, citando tanto los derechos de la madre de criar a una familia como consideraba oportuno como los derechos del feto anencefal. Junto con la Corte Suprema argentina, las leyes más citadas fueron la Convención de los Derechos del Niño y la Convención Americana sobre los Derechos Humanos. Si bien esta decisión puede no parecer progresista para los estándares estadounidenses, el aborto aún está esencialmente prohibido en Argentina.

State v. Schultz Washington Supreme Court (2002)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Defendant was charged with assault stemming from a domestic violence incident. At his arraignment, the court entered a no-contact order, forbidding defendant to have any contact with his victim for a period of one year. Defendant was found guilty of the assault. He resumed cohabitation with the victim, although both were aware that the no-contact order remained in effect. Two months later, the police department received a hang-up 911 call from the apartment shared by defendant and the victim. The state charged defendant with violation of domestic violence no-contact order (pre-conviction). Defendant contended that the no-contact order had expired upon Schultz's conviction. The Supreme Court of Washington held that a no-contact order entered at arraignment under RCW 10.99.040(3) does not expire upon a finding of guilt in a domestic violence prosecution but remains in effect until the defendant's sentencing. As a sentencing condition, pursuant to RCW 10.99.050(1), the trial court may issue a new no-contact order, or it may extend the existing order by clearly indicating on the judgment and sentence that the order is to remain in effect. Here, the no-contact order entered under RCW 10.99.040(3) at defendant’s arraignment was permissibly extended as a sentencing condition and thus remained in effect until its stated expiration date.

Bevan v. Fix Wyoming Supreme Court (2002)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Appellants, two minor children, appealed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Supreme Court of Wyoming reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact precluded the grant of summary judgment on the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress stemmed from a domestic violence incident, which involved appellee beating, kicking, punching, dragging by the hair and choking the mother of two children while screaming that he wanted to kill her. Although the Supreme Court of Wyoming agreed with the District Court that not every domestic violence altercation constitutes an extreme and outrageous conduct or results in sufficiently severe emotional impact to support a third party claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, it also noted that appellee’s alleged conduct in this case amounted to conduct beyond mere insults, indignities and petty oppressions. If proved, it could be construed as outrageous, atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community. Therefore, the grant of summary judgment was improper, as the jury should have been able to determine whether appellee’s conduct was sufficiently extreme and outrageous to result in liability.

Com. v. Boucher Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (2002)

Sexual violence and rape

Here, the defendant had pled guilty to rape of a child and assault and battery on a child.  Before he was about to be released from custody at the completion of his sentences, the State filed a petition to commit him as a sexually dangerous person under Gen. L. C. 123A, §§1, 12, as someone who has been convicted of a “sexual offense and who suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder which makes the person likely to engage in sexual offenses if not confined to a secure facility.”  Id. at 275.  The trial judge dismissed the State’s petition as it found the State failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was likely to commit new sexual offenses unless confined.  The court found that the State had to show a risk of committing a new offense of at least fifty percent, or, more likely than not.  The State appealed.  Here, the court was faced with defining the word “likely” as used in Gen. L. C. 123A, § 1 in defining a sexually dangerous person as someone “likely to engage in sexual offenses if not confined to a secure facility.”  Id. at 274.  The court noted that to determine what is “likely,” the court must consider the seriousness of the threatened harm, the relative certainty that the harm will occur, and the possibility of successful intervention to prevent the harm.  Id. at 276.  Further, “likely” indicates more than a mere possibility or probability, but it is not bound to a statistical definition such as “at least fifty percent.”  Id. at 277.  Further, the statute does not indicate it has to mean more likely than not.  As such, the court found the trial court erred in its interpretation of “likely” and it remanded the case.

Campbell v. Martin Maine Supreme Court (2002)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Here, the plaintiff had obtained a protective order against the defendant in Kentucky because she feared that the defendant would abuse her and the parties’ daughter. Subsequently, the defendant threatened to kill the plaintiff, and the plaintiff fled to Maine, where she filed for a protective order. The district court granted a temporary protective order. Subsequently, the plaintiff filed for custody of the parties’ daughter. The district court found that it could not grant the plaintiff custody as Maine was not the daughter’s home state. On appeal, the court noted that under 19-A M.R.S.A. §§ 1731-1783, where Maine is not the child’s home state, a Maine court does not have jurisdiction unless the child’s home state declines to exercise jurisdiction. However, where a parent and child flee their home state due threats of abuse, Maine may exercise jurisdiction over the child’s interests under § 1748. The court affirmed the district court’s denial of custody though. The court found that the court properly exercised jurisdiction to issue a protective order which would not expire until a custody hearing in Kentucky. Because the child’s interests would be protected until the matter was adjudicated, there was no need to act further to protect the child by issuing a more permanent order.

Gaines v. Bellino New Jersey Supreme Court (2002)

Sexual harassment

Plaintiff worked the midnight shift in a prison. One night another officer kissed her without any invitation and subsequently repeatedly referred to the incident, and made intimidating jokes about raping the plaintiff. Despite being made aware of these incidents, plaintiff’s superiors did not take any action. It was almost two years before the warden responded to plaintiff’s attempts to talk to him about the harassment, at which time plaintiff refused to file a complaint in fear for her safety. The warden later advised her again to file a complaint and issued a cease and desist letter to the officer. Eventually, the County filed disciplinary charges against the officer but dismissed the charges. Plaintiff eventually brought a lawsuit alleging a hostile work environment. Although the County had an anti-sexual harassment policy, numerous employees testified that they were never trained on the policy, and the plaintiff testified that the policy was loosely enforced. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint, reasoning that the fact that an individual violates a policy does not render the policy wrong. The Appellate Division affirmed. The plaintiff appealed the Appellate Division decision, contending that in determining employer liability for sexual harassment, the court was required to consider (1) whether the company had mandatory training for supervisors and managers which is offered to all members of the company; and (2) effective sensing or monitoring systems to check the trustworthiness of the prevention and remedial structures for employees. The court agreed with the plaintiff; even though the policy was known to many high-ranking officials, no action was taken to address the plaintiff’s complaints, even if they were not “formal” complaints. The court found that summary judgment was improper because there were questions of fact as to the adequacy of the policy.

Craine v. Trinity College Supreme Court of Connecticut (2002)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Here, the plaintiff was hired by the defendant as an assistant professor. Throughout her employment, she was reappointed and complimented by the appointments and promotions committee. In her positions, the plaintiff taught, researched, and participated in service efforts for the defendant. Id. at 629-30. Despite that the plaintiff published several articles, taught students and supervised student research, during her tenure review in her sixth year of employment, she was denied tenure. Id. at 632-33. The tenure committee found the plaintiff was a “good teacher but not an extraordinary one,” and found her service to the school to be adequate. However the committee found her research and scholarship was inadequate, since she had only published one article in a refereed professional journal (notwithstanding that she had other publications). Id. at 634. The plaintiff claimed that the tenure process as it applied to her was discriminatory. The court noted that to establish a prima facie case of gender discrimination in the work environment, a plaintiff must show: “(1) she was a member of a protected class; (2) she was qualified for her position; (3) she was discharged; and (4) the termination occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.” Id. at 225-26. The court noted to meet the fourth element, the plaintiff must show that “she was treated less favorably than comparable male employees in circumstances from which a gender-based motive could be inferred.” Id. at 638. Once a prima facie case is established, to succeed on a gender discrimination claim, the plaintiff must go further to show that the defendant was motivated by an intent to discriminate against the plaintiff in its acts.