U.S. - Federal Courts and Various States

Domestic Case Law

Doe v. Hagenbeck United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (2015)

Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

The plaintiff is a female former cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where she claimed that she was forced to resign after her third year due to rampant sexual hostility. In May 2010, she was raped while at West Point after she took sleeping pills and she also cites several other instances of sexual assault and harassment, claiming that members the Sexual Assault Review Board at West Point failed to punish the perpetrators. The District Court found that the plaintiff had properly stated an equal protection claim under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, affording women the same protections under the law as men. The District Court also found that hearing the claim was not precluded by Feres Doctrine, which typically bars tort claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act and constitutional claims against superior officers incident to military service, since the rape was not a service-related injury and hearing the claim would not compromise the legislative or executive functions of government, including the disciplinary role of the Executive Branch over the nation's military. Therefore, the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.



Edwards v. Beck Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (2015)

Gender discrimination

Abortion-providing physicians in Arkansas filed a 18 USC §1983 action in District Court seeking a permanent injunction against Arkansas Code Ann §20?16?1203(a), which revokes the license of physicians who perform abortions of fetuses beyond the point when the fetal heartbeat can be detected, about 12 weeks. The physicians were granted the injunction, and the State appealed. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction, finding that this statute violated women’s right to terminate pregnancy as set out in Roe v. Wade, which allows for abortion up to the point of fetal viability. The court also notes that viability should be determined on a case-by-case basis and that viability is being pushed sooner and sooner with advancing medical research.



People v. Reynolds Court of Appeals Fourth District (1995)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The defendant was convicted of violating an order of protection against his ex-wife by sending her a note with the intent to harass her. He appealed contesting that the statues violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments because it is vague and overbroad. The Court of Appeals rejected the arguments that it was too vague or overbroad because these issues had already been determined previously in other cases. The Court also rejected the defendant’s arguments that the trial court erred in excluding evidence and that the defendant was deprived of a fair trial because of the level of deference given to the state on review.



Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Human Rights Commission Court of Appeals Second District (1999)

Gender discrimination

Ms. McQueary was discharged from Wal-Mart and alleged that her employer violated the Illinois Human Rights Act by discharging her on the basis of gender. Her employer claimed that it discharged her after she left her shift early, which she had done due to harassment from her male co-workers. After the administrative judge recommended liability, the Illinois Human Rights Commission (HRC) sustained the complaint and ordered the award of damage and reinstatement of Mrs. McQueary. Wal-Mart argues that the employee failed to prove the fourth prong of a prima facie cause of unlawful discrimination—that employees in a similar situation who were not members of a protected group were not discharged. The Court of Appeals ruled that this was met though when they examined Wal-Mart’s treatment of similar employees and found that the male employees who also left their shift early were not automatically discharged. The Court affirmed the judgment of the HRC.



People v. Brials Court of Appeals First District (2000)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

Brials and another defendant were convicted of the sexual assault and unlawful restraint of an 11-year-old girl. In their appeal, the defendants contended that the conviction for aggravated criminal sexual assault based on commission during the felony of unlawful restraint should be reduced to a conviction for criminal sexual assault because unlawful restraint is a lesser-included offense and should not be used as an aggravating factor. The Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions, but remanded to the trial court to resentence. Because unlawful restraint was already an inherent factor in criminal sexual assault, it could not also be used as an aggravating factor. Thus, the defendants could only be convicted of criminal sexual assault.



Daria W. v. Bradley W Court of Appeals Third District (2000)

Sexual violence and rape

The petitioner filed for an order of protection for her minor child against the respondent, Bradley W., the child’s father. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court made a mistake in applying section 606(e) of the Marriage Act to admit the minor child’s hearsay statements alleging sexual abuse by the father. The Court of Appeals looked at two different statutes that could apply to the legal issue, and according to the rule of statutory construction the more specific statute governed, which is what the trial court had followed. The Court decided that they were in no position to question the trial court’s conclusions, so they affirmed the judgment.



United States v. Chang Da Liu, 538 F. 3d 1078 (9th Cir. 2008) Court of Appeals Ninth District (2008)

Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

Ming Yan Zheng and her husband Chang Da Liu opened a brothel in Saipan, the capital of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (“CMNI”). They recruited employees in China by advertising for positions as waitresses, nightclub performers and service workers. The materials promised wages of between $3,000 and $4,000 and required applicants to pay a $6,000 processing fee. Upon their arrival to CMNI, the employees were forced into prostitution. Six of the victims reported the situation to the FBI which resulted in Zheng and Liu’s convictions for conspiracy, sex trafficking, foreign transportation for prostitution and transportation of persons in execution of fraud. On appeal, Zheng challenged her conviction on several grounds, inter alia, that the court lacked jurisdiction to prosecute her. Zheng argued that the Federal Government lacked authority to prosecute her because Section 501 of the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States of America (“the Covenant”) limited the application of the criminal statutes under which she was convicted in the CMNI. According to Zheng, Section 501provides an exhaustive list of the provisions of the U.S. Constitution which apply to the CMNI. As such, she could not be prosecuted under the criminal statutes used to prosecute her because they were enacted under the commerce clause and that territorial clause, which provisions are not listed in Section 501 of the Covenant. The Court found Zheng’s argument to be lacking because Section 501 sets forth the Constitutional provisions which apply in the CNMI as if it were a state. By contrast, the commerce clause and the territorial clause apply to Congress and regulate its ability to enact legislation applicable to the CMNI. As such, the Court held that Congress had authority to legislate over the CMNI, and that the court had jurisdiction over Zheng. The Court pointed out that although Congress has authority to legislate over the CMNI, the Covenant does limit Congress’s powers with respect to legislation enacted after the Covenant’s effective date. For such legislation, the Court must balance the federal interest served by the legislation against the degree of intrusion into the CMNI’s local affairs. However, the Court found that the federal interest in combating international sex trafficking through the U.S. territories outweighs the intrusion into the CMNI’s local affairs.



United States v. Flanders, 752 F.3d 1317 (11th Cir. 2014) Court of Appeals Eleventh District (2014)

Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

Defendants Flanders and Callum engaged in a scheme to lure aspiring models to South Florida, drug them with Benzodiazepines, film them engaging in sexual acts and distribute the film for profit. The two were convicted on conspiracy charges and multiple counts of inducing women to engage in sex trafficking through fraud and benefitting from that scheme. The two were sentenced to a total imprisonment term of life, including sixty month terms for the conspiracy charge and life terms for each of the sex-trafficking charges to run consecutively to each other. On appeal Flanders challenged his conviction on sufficiency of the evidence grounds. He claimed the conspiracy conviction could not be sustained because there was insufficient evidence of an agreement between the Defendants or of an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. The Court held that evidence that Flanders represented himself as a Bacardi agent and a fictitious female employee of a modeling agency, together with evidence that Callum referred to the fictitious female employee and used phrases Flanders used to lure the models, was sufficient to establish an agreement amongst the Defendants to defraud the victims and constituted overt acts in furtherance of the agreement. Additionally, the Defendants challenged their convictions on double jeopardy grounds, claiming that convictions under 18 U.S.C. §1591(a)(1) and (a)(2) were multiplicitous. The Court held that Section 1591(a)(1) requires the prosecution to prove that the defendant was criminally responsible for the recruitment or enticement of a person with the knowledge that such person will be fraudulently induced to engage in a commercial sex act. By contrast, Section 1591(a)(2) only requires participation in a venture which has recruited a person for such purposes and that the defendant receive valuable benefit from his participation. Applying the Blockburger test, the Court held that the each subsection of the trafficking statute requires proof of different elements that the other does not and that convictions under each subsection do not result in a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.



United States v. Mozie, 752 F.3d 1271 (11th Cir. 2014) Court of Appeals Eleventh District (2014)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

Defendant James Mozie ran prostitution ring from his house, commonly known as the Boom Boom Room by his customers. Mozie recruited vulnerable teenage girls by posing as a modeling agent, luring them to the Boom Boom Room, and forcing them to have sex with him and his customers. In 2011, law enforcement agents raided the Boom Boom Room and Mozie was subsequently charged with one count of conspiring to commit child sex trafficking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1594(c), eight counts of child trafficking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a) and one count of producing child pornography in vilation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a). The jury convicted Mozie of all ten counts and he was sentenced to the guideline-recommended sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, Mozie claimed his conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a) violated the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Mozie argued that the statute is facially unconstitutional because it allows the government to obtain a conviction without proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew his victim was a minor. The Court held that the statute is not unconstitutional because it requires the Government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had a reasonable opportunity to observe the victim. If such element is proven, then the Government need only prove that the defendant recklessly disregarded that victims age. The Court explained that the Due Process clause does not prevent Congress from criminalizing reckless conduct, especially in the context of statutory rape and other measures to protect young children from sexual exploitation. Additionally, Mozie contended that his conviction should be reversed because his indictment was constructively amended by the district court. Mozie’s indictment alleged conjunctively that he knew and recklessly disregarded his victims’ age. The district court, however, instructed the jury that they could convict Mozie “if they found he either knew his victims were minor or recklessly disregarded the fact that they were minors.” The Court held that there was no constructive amendment of the indictment because when an indictment charges in the conjunctive, the jury instructions may properly be framed in the disjunctive.



United States v. Sawyer, 733 F.3d 228 (7th Cir. 2013) Court of Appeals Seventh District (2013)

Trafficking in persons

Defendant Datqun Sawyer was convicted of sex trafficking in violation 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a). On appeal, Sawyer admitted to forcing at least seven teenage girls he knew to be minors to work as prostitutes for his benefit but challenged his conviction on grounds that the jury was improperly instructed. Sawyer argued that the jury should have been instructed to acquit if the Government did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew or intended his criminal conduct to affect interstate commerce. The Court held that the clause in 18 U.S.C. § 1591 requiring the defendant’s conduct to affect interstate commerce merely establishes the basis for Congress’s power to legislate and is not subject to any mens rea requirement. The Court explained it would be unreasonable for Congress to limit its enforcement ability to the “trifling number” of sex-traffickers who know or intend their conduct to impact interstate or international commerce as understood under Constitutional law. As such, the Court held that a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a) does not require proof of the defendant’s knowledge of the implications of his conduct on interstate commerce.



Cece v. Holder, 733 F.3d 662 (7th Cir. 2013) Court of Appeals Seventh District (2013)

Gender discrimination, Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

Cece, a young Albanian woman fled Albania to avoid trafficking and prostitution rings which target young women living alone. While living alone in Korce, Cece caught the attention of one of the leaders of a well-known prostitution ring. He followed, harassed, and threatened Cece. Her reports of the assault to the authorities were perfunctorily dismissed. Thereafter, Cece fled to the United States (“U.S.”) using a fraudulently procured Italian passport, whereupon she filed for asylum and withholding of removal within the one-year statutory period. Her claim was based on fear of returning to Albania as a young woman living alone. The immigration judge granted Cece’s asylum claim finding that her fear of returning to Albania was well founded because she belonged to a particular social group composed of “young Albanian women who are targeted for prostitution by traffickers” and that the government of Albania was unable or unwilling to protect such women. The Board of Immigration Appeals vacated the judge’s decision, holding that the judge erred in finding that Cece had established membership in a particular social group. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that Cece was a member of particular social group cognizable under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A) and therefore eligible for asylum. Specifically, the Court found that the particular social group identified by the immigration judge – young Albanian women living alone and thus vulnerable to being trafficked – met the immutability requirements of 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(a) because it is based on common characteristics that members of the group either cannot change or should not be required to change.



United States v. Afolabi, 508 Fed. Appx. 11 (3d Cir. 2013) Court of Appeals Third District (2013)

Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

Afolabi was convicted in district court on twenty two counts relating to her participation in a visa fraud and human trafficking scheme. From October 2002 through September 2007, Afolabi and her family trafficked over twenty West African girls into the U.S. and forced them into unpaid labor. At trial, the prosecution introduced evidence of the physical, psychological, and sexual abuse the girls endured at the hands of Afolabi and her family in the U.S. and Togo. Specifically, the prosecution used evidence of abuse in Togo to establish the involuntary nature of the girls’ servitude. On appeal, Affolabi claimed the court erred in admitting evidence of acts occurring prior to the indictment period. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that the evidence was properly introduced because the evidence of prior bad acts in Togo met the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b). The Court held that the evidence had a proper evidentiary purpose because it served to illustrate a plan or scheme to coerce the girls into servitude in the U.S. The Court further held that such evidence was relevant because it could contribute to the jury’s determination of the girls’ inability to leave. Additionally, the Court found that any potential prejudice resulting from the Togo evidence did not substantially outweigh its probative value especially in light of the limiting instruction provided by the trial judge.



United States v. Cortes-Castro, 511 Fed. Appx. 942 (11th Cir. 2013) Court of Appeals Eleventh District (2013)

Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

After the Department of Homeland Security learned that Ernesto, Alberto and Israel Cortes Castro, were smuggling women from Mexico into the U.S. for forced prostitution, they were charged with conspiring to traffic women for prostitution by force or coercion in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1594(c) and other substantive trafficking crimes. The Defendants plead guilty to the conspiring charge in exchange for the dismissal of the other charges. The factual proffer submitted with the plea agreements stated that the Defendants agreed to establish a sex-trafficking business in the U.S. in which women would be transported from Mexico and prostituted in exchange for money. It also detailed the methods employed by the Defendants to defraud, force and coerce women into prostitution. The district court accepted the plea agreements and sentenced the Defendants to 180 months of imprisonment, an upward variation from the 108-135 month range provided by the advisory guidelines. According to the district court, the upward variation was justified by the “unusually heinous, cruel, brutal and degrading” nature of their conduct. Additionally, the court ordered the Defendants to pay $1,239,200 in restitution losses to the victims. On appeal, the Defendants challenged the upward variation and the restitution award. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the district court had not abused its discretion by sentencing the Defendants to terms 45 months over the advisory guidelines range because they had “enslaved, demeaned and debased immigrant women” forcing them into prostitution for several years and subjecting them to mental, physical and emotional abuse. The Court further held that the district court reasonably determined that an upward variation was required to address the “abhorrent nature” of the crimes. Finally, the Court held that the district court did not err in granting the restitution award because the victims were statutorily entitled to compensation and such award was based on factual information in the factual proffer and the presentencing report.



Bradwell v. The State United States Supreme Court (1872)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Myra Bradwell petitioned to be admitted to the bar and to be allowed to practice law, but was denied by the Supreme Court of Illinois. The United States Supreme Court upheld this decision, noting that a woman’s freedom to pursue the occupation of a lawyer was not a “privilege and immunity” of Untied States citizenship that was protected from state restriction by the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution. Thus the court found that excluding women from the bar did not violate the U.S. Constitution.



In re Lockwood United States Supreme Court (1894)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The Supreme Court stated that a woman could not be admitted to the bar because she was under a common law disability: she did not have the right to enter into contracts with third persons without the permission of her husband.



Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education United States Supreme Court (2005)

Gender discrimination

Mr. Jackson, a teacher and basketball coach, brought suit against the Birmingham Board of Education (“Board”), alleging that the Board retaliated against him because he had complained about sex discrimination in the high school’s athletic program. Specifically, Mr. Jackson complained to his supervisors that the girls’ basketball team was not receiving equal funding and equal access to athletic equipment and facilities. After the Board terminated Mr. Jackson’s coaching duties, he filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. He alleged that the Board violated Title IX by retaliating against him for protesting the discrimination of the girls’ basketball team. The district court dismissed Mr. Jackson’s complaint on the ground Title IX did not cover claims retaliation, and the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The Unites States Supreme Court reversed, holding: “We conclude that when a funding recipient retaliates against a person because he complains of sex discrimination, this constitutes intentional ‘discrimination’ ‘on the basis of sex,’ in violation of Title IX.” The Court reached this conclusion, in part, because “[r]eporting incidents of discrimination is integral to Title IX enforcement and would be discouraged if retaliation against those who report went unpunished.” In response to the Board’s claim that it had no notice that Title IX prohibited retaliation, the Supreme Court held that Title IX itself supplied sufficient notice to the Board, as did previous Courts of Appeals decisions that had considered the issue.



Strickland v. Prime Care of Dothan United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division (2000)

Gender discrimination, Employment discrimination

Ms. Strickland sued her former employer, Prime Care of Dothan, on the theory Prime Care terminated her employment as a medical assistant because of her pregnancy. Prime Care filed a motion for summary judgment on the sole issue of whether Ms. Strickland had sufficient evidence to create an issue of fact on the question of pretext. In order to rebut the inference of discrimination, Prime Care was required to articulate a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for its decision to terminate Ms. Strickland. To this end, Prime Care asserted that it based its termination decision on violation of work rules, including that Ms. Strickland was rude and/or unprofessional on several occasions, was frequently tardy, and failed to return to work after attending a doctor’s visit. Because, if true, the reasons asserted by Prime Care were nondiscriminatory, the burden shifted back to Ms. Strickland to show that the proffered reasons were really pretext for unlawful discrimination. Ms. Strickland achieved this by showing her conduct did not violate Prime Care’s established policies, and presenting circumstantial evidence that, if true, demonstrated her supervisor harbored a discriminatory animus toward unmarried pregnant women. Prime Care also argued that even if it did discriminate against unmarried, pregnant women, such discrimination did not violate Title VII because the differential treatment was not based on sex. Rather, Prime Care claimed such a policy was neutral toward women, since women were both members of the group of married pregnant women and unmarried pregnant women. The court held that Congress and the Supreme Court had expressly rejected this argument, finding that the terms “because of sex” or “on the basis of sex” include because of or on the basis of pregnancy. Thus, an employer violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act when it premises an employment decision, in whole or in part, on the fact that one of its female employees or applicants was pregnant out of wedlock. For these reasons, the court denied Prime Care’s motion for summary judgment.


Thoreson v. Penthouse Int’l, Ltd. Appelate Division, First Department (1992)

Sexual harassment

Ms. Thoreson brought an action against her employer to recover for 13 under New York Human Rights Law (“Executive Law § 290”).  Plaintiff worked at the men’s magazine, Penthouse, and was an aspiring actress and model.  The trial Justice found that Plaintiff was pressured into engaging in sexual activity with the company’s business associates.  Specifically, she alleged an eighteen-month liaison with a financial advisor.  Plaintiff claimed her compliance to engage in the above mentioned activities was an implicit condition of her employment, which was terminated when she refused to participate in a promotional tour in Japan because she was afraid of what she would be required to do while on tour.  The trial court found that Plaintiff had stated a sufficient cause of action for which she could recover.  The court stated, “Plaintiff’s testimony concerning this matter was contraverted only by Defendant’s blanket denial that the events took place.  I do not believe him.”  The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s holding.  Further, it provided that while Defendant’s “observation that Plaintiff willingly embarked upon a career which exploited her sexuality is entirely accurate, it does not preclude the subsequent withdrawal of consent to exploitation, nor does it necessarily imply consent to sexual encounters of the type complained of.”



U.S. v. Gardner United States District Court for the Northern District of California (2007)

Trafficking in persons

A grand jury indicted Defendant Gardner (“Defendant”) for alleged participation in a conspiracy to engage in the sex trafficking of a 17-year-old minor female. Defendant was allegedly involved in transporting the minor, collecting money from the minor, and housing the minor between prostitution calls. At Defendant’s detention hearing, the judge released Defendant subject to a bond and other conditions, including a curfew. Several weeks after Defendant’s release, the government sought to impose electronic monitoring as an additional condition of release and as mandated by the Adam Walsh Child and Protection Safety Act of 2006 (“the Act”). The electronic monitoring would immediately alert law enforcement if Defendant violated her curfew. Defense counsel argued that the electronic monitoring violated the Eighth Amendment, procedural due process, and the doctrine of separation of powers. The court disagreed and held that the electronic monitoring was constitutional on all three grounds. Moreover, the court concluded that the electronic monitoring furthered this interest in a way that was not excessive when compared to the risk of post-arrest criminal activity. The court noted that the Act served the valid government interest of providing additional protection for children “from sexual attacks and other violent crimes.” Decision on file with the Avon Global Center.



Ericson v. Syracuse Univ. United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (1999)

Sexual harassment

Ms. Ericson and Ms. Kornechuk brought an action against Syracuse University and its employees under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. section 1681 (“Title IX”) and the Violence Against Women Act, 42 U.S.C. section 13981 (“VAWA”). Plaintiffs alleged that they were sexually harassed by their tennis coach, and that the University was aware of the tennis coach’s behavior and conducted a sham investigatory proceeding to conceal the extent of the tennis coach’s misconduct, which had occurred for more than twenty years. Defendants moved to dismiss the claims. They contended that Title IX did not provide a private right of action and the VAWA claim was barred by the statue of limitations. The court held that there was a private right of action under Title IX pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Gebser v. Lago Vista Indep. Sch. Dist. (1998). Erickson held that a student who has been sexually harassed by an employee of an institution may bring suit against the institution, under Title IX, for private damages if: (1) the institution has authority to institute corrective measures on its behalf; (2) has actual notice of the behavior; and (3) is deliberately indifferent to its employee’s misconduct. The court found that Plaintiffs’ complaint, on its face, satisfied that standard because it alleged the individuals who investigated the charges against the tennis coach not only had actual notice that the tennis coach had been harassing female student-athletes for twenty years but had also conspired to conduct a sham investigation to conceal the full extent of the coach’s misconduct. The court reasoned that the allegation that the institution knew of the 13 of female-athletes and did not respond adequately was sufficient to state a claim under Title IX. The court also held that the statute of limitations did not bar the Plaintiffs’ claim under the VAWA. VAWA provides a civil cause of action to victims of gender-motivated crimes of violence. It does not contain an express statute of limitations. Accordingly, the court found that it should look to the “most appropriate or analogous state statute of limitations.” The court reasoned that Congress’ stated purpose, in enacting this law, was to “protect the civil rights of victims of gender motivated violence by establishing a federal civil rights cause of action.” Because of Congress’ stated purpose, the court found that the cause of action that was most analogous to VAWA was a personal injury claim, and as such, a three-year statute of limitations should apply. Thus, Plaintiffs’ claim under VAWA was not barred by the statue of limitations because the alleged acts of violence occurred within three years from when Plaintiffs filed their complaint.



Melani v. Bd. of Higher Educ., United States United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (1983)

Gender discrimination

Plaintiffs sued the board of trustees of the City University of New York (“CUNY”), alleging that CUNY discriminated against its female professors because it paid them less than its male professors, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. section 2000e (“Title VII”). As evidence, Plaintiffs provided statistics about the faculty’s pay that demonstrated that the female professors were paid less. Defendant argued in response that the female staff were paid less based on merit, specifically because women devoted more time to child-rearing, had fewer publications, and worked in academic fields for which the market demand was less. The court found that Defendant failed to successfully counter Plaintiffs’ claim because its testimony was little more than generalizations: its evidence did not relate to the CUNY female faculty and did not explain the salary disparity between the male and female faculty. Thus, the court found that Defendant violated Title VII by paying Plaintiffs a lower salary because of their sex.



Dittrich v. Woods United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (2011)

Sexual violence and rape

Thomas Dittrich was accused of having a three-month relationship with his daughter’s thirteen-year-old classmate, the Complaintant. The relationship began when the Complaintant went to Dittrich’s house to visit his daughter, and quickly progressed into a mutual intimate relationship. When the Complaintant’s parents uncovered the relationship, they immediately intervened and a criminal suit was filed against Dittrich. At trial, Dittrich’s family, the Complaintant, and other third parties testified about his conduct with Complaintant. Dittrich’s family recounted his history of domestic violence, to which Dittrich’s attorney did not object. Dittrich also tried to examine Complaintant about her sexual history, but could not overcome Michigan’s rape shield law by offering proof as to his proposed evidence. The jury convicted Dittrich on seven counts of criminal sexual conduct, sentencing him to 95-180 months’ imprisonment. Dittrich appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals and then to the Michigan Supreme Court, on claims that (1) he was denied effective counsel due to his attorney’s failure to object to his family’s domestic violence testimony, and (2) the court, by denying his motion to examine Complaintant about her sexual history, violated his right to confrontation. Both courts denied relief. In 2007, Dittrich petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging both ineffective assistance of counsel and a violation of his confrontation right. The district court granted the writ, holding the confrontation violation was harmless, but Dittrich did receive ineffective assistance of counsel. The state appealed that decision and Dittrich cross-appealed on the confrontation claim. The Sixth Circuit reasoned that to prove ineffective assistance of counsel, one must demonstrate that counsel’s performance was deficient, and that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. Although the court found that Dittrich’s counsel’s performance was deficient, they ruled that the deficiency did not prejudice the defense due to the overwhelming evidence against Dittrich. As to the confrontation claim, the court reviewed Dittrich’s request based on whether the error had substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury’s verdict. The court held that Dittrich’s proposed inquiries into the Complaintant’s sexual history would have been of minimal value. Thus, the court’s decision to exclude the evidence did not have a “substantial and injurious effect” on the jury’s verdict. The court reversed the district court’s grant of habeas relief on Dittrich’s ineffective-assistance claim and affirmed its rejection of his right-to-confrontation claim.



Perdomo v. Holder United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (2010)

Femicide

In 1991 Lesly Yajayra Perdomo (“Perdomo”), a citizen and native of Guatemala, joined her mother in the United States. In April 2003 the Immigration and Naturalization Service charged her as removable because she unlawfully entered the United States in 1991. Perdomo conceded removability but requested asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Perdomo sought asylum because of her fear of future persecution as a member of a particular social group of “women in Guatemala between the ages of fourteen and forty.” Perdomo explained she was fearful because of: (1) the large number of women killed in Guatemala; (2) the failure of the Guatemalan government to respond appropriately; and (3) the lack of explanation for the killings. The immigration judge denied Perdomo’s requests. The Board of Immigration Appeals (the “BIA”) affirmed the denials and rejected the particular social group definition, “women in Guatemala between the ages of fourteen and forty” and Perdomo’s revised group definition, “all women in Guatemala,” as too broad to qualify for protection. The Ninth Circuit granted Perdomo’s petition for review and held that prior case law established that, “women in a particular country, regardless of ethnicity or clan membership, could form a particular social group.” The court noted that the size and breadth of the group, “all women in Guatemala,” did not preclude it from qualifying as a protected social group and that the BIA erred when it held to the contrary. The court remanded the case to the BIA to determine whether “all women in Guatemala” is a particular social group and, if so, whether Perdomo qualified for asylum.



Hollander v. United States United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (2009)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

A group of husbands filed suit against the United States and other U.S. officials, challenging the validity of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In particular, they were challenging the portion that permitted aliens who had been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by their spouses to self-petition for legal permanent resident status. The plaintiffs claimed this created an incentive for their wives and ex-wives to file false police complaints and false applications for temporary restraining orders against them. They further argued that their reputations were harmed and that confidential information about them was being released to third parties. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed their suit for lack of standing. Accordingly, the plaintiffs could not challenge VAWA or its self-petition provision. On appeal, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. The court held that the plaintiffs’ injury was not fairly traceable to the defendants, but rather to independent actions of their wives or ex-wives who were not before the court. The plaintiffs further failed to state an injury-in-fact, because their claimed injuries were purely speculative. The fear of disclosing confidential information to third parties was dispelled based on the confidentiality provisions of VAWA. Thus, the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue the government and challenge VAWA.



Doe v. Penzato United States District Court for the Northern District of California (2011)

Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

Plaintiff Jane Doe (“Doe”) filed a lawsuit under a pseudonym and alleged 23 causes of action including human trafficking, sexual battery, forced labor and involuntary servitude against Defendants Mr. and Mrs. Penzato. Mrs. Penzato had offered Doe $1,500 per month, free room and board, and transportation to the United States in exchange for child care and housekeeping services. Doe accepted the offer and moved to San Francisco, California. Doe alleged that during her employment Defendants physically assaulted her, sexually molested her, threatened her with cancellation of her visa, and abused or exploited her in various other ways. She eventually left the Penzatos’ household and moved to a transitional housing residence for female victims of violence. Doe filed a motion for a protective order and requested permission to proceed with the lawsuit under a pseudonym. Doe argued that this was necessary to avoid additional psychological trauma due to the sensitive and personal nature of her claims. Further, she argued that the use of a pseudonym would help maintain the safety and anonymity of her fellow transitional housing residents. Defendants argued that because they were publically accused of sexual abuse, human trafficking, and forced labor, Doe should also be publicly exposed. Defendants also argued that they would be prejudiced by the extra effort they would have to take to keep her identity a secret. The court granted Doe’s motion and allowed her to proceed under a pseudonym, holding that Doe’s need to remain anonymous outweighed Defendants’ arguments and the public’s interest in knowing her identity. The court noted the strong interest in protecting sexual assault victims’ identities—to encourage them to report the assaults without fear of being stigmatized as a sexual assault victim.



Ollier v. Sweetwater Union High School District United States District Court for the Southern District of California (2009)

Gender discrimination

Plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit against Sweetwater Union School District (the “District”) and several individuals, alleging unequal participation opportunities for females at Castle Park High School (“CPHS”).  Plaintiffs argued that Defendants violated Title IX’s provision that prohibits excluding or discriminating against anyone on the basis of sex in educational programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.  The court applied a three-part test to determine whether the District complied with Title IX which included: (1) substantially proportionate athletic opportunities for females; (2) continuing practice of program expansion for females; and (3) the accommodation of females’ interest and abilities.  First, the court held that Defendants failed to provide females with substantially proportionate opportunities to participate in athletics, as the number of female students denied the opportunity to participate could have sustained several viable competitive teams.  Second, the court held that there was no steady increase in female athletic participation.  Even though, as Defendants argued, athletic programs for girls had expanded over the past decade and CPHS had two more teams for girls than for boys, the number of female participants, not the number of teams, determined whether programs had expanded.  Third, the court held that Plaintiffs demonstrated evidence of unmet interest and of the ability of CPHS females to participate in field hockey, tennis, and water polo.  Defendants’ argument that they could not obtain coaches for the teams was not a valid excuse.  The court held that Defendants allowed significant gender-based disparity in violation of Title IX and found for Plaintiffs on their claim of unequal participation opportunities for females.



Griffin v. City of Opa-Locka United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (2001)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

A. Griffin was employed as a billing clerk in the City of Opa-Locka’s water department in 1993. Shortly after hiring Griffin, the city hired Earnie Neal as its City Manager. After taking office, Neal immediately began sexually harassing Griffin. He called her derogatory names, aggressively pursued her, and made inappropriate advances. He performed some of these acts in front of the Mayor and City Commissioner. Griffin continually resisted his advances and attempted to go on with her daily routines in fear of being fired. Eventually, Neal raped Griffin in her apartment after insisting he drive her home after an event put on by the city. Griffin waited several months to come forward about the rape, and the lawsuit ensued. Griffin sought damages against the City for 13 and sexual assault under Title VII; the Florida Civil Rights Act; 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and state tort law. She also alleged claims against Neal. At trial, a jury found that Neal sexually harassed Griffin, that the harassment was a custom or policy of the City, Neal raped Griffin under color of law, the City was deliberately indifferent in hiring Neal, and found against Neal on all tort claims. The subsequent damage award amounted to $2 million dollars. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit agreed with the district court that Neal was acting under the color of law and that 13 was the on-going, accepted practice at the City and that the City Commissioner, Mayor, and other high ranking City officials knew of, ignored, and tolerated 13. But because the record did not establish that the jury below found the City had a custom or policy of allowing rape or that the rape incident was part of the custom or pattern of 13, the court found that the suit lacked all essential aspects of a § 1983 case against the City. As such, the verdict and judgment against the City for rape under § 1983 was vacated. All other charges against the City were affirmed. The $1.5 million dollar verdict against the City was reversed. The City was still found liable for 13 due to the hostile work environment it fostered, as well as deliberate indifference in the hiring of Neal.



Doe v. University of Illinois United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (2000)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

Jane Doe attended University High School in Urbana, Illinois. Although University High was a public school, it was affiliated with the University of Illinois, which had the responsibility for overseeing the school’s administration. From January 1993 through May 1994, while a student at University High, Jane was a victim of an ongoing campaign of verbal and physical 13 perpetrated by a group of male students at the school. Doe and her parents complained on numerous occasions to officials of both the high school and the University of Illinois. The school officials suspended a few of the students and transferred one out of Doe’s biology class, but did nothing else to prevent further instances. Some administrators even suggested that it was Doe’s fault. In 1995, Doe and her parents filed suit against the University of Illinois and other individual officials of University High and the University of Illinois, alleging a violation of, among other things, Title IX. The United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois dismissed Doe’s Title IX claim. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit remanded the case, holding that Jane Doe alleged a valid claim under Title IX, and that a Title IX recipient may be held liable for its failure to take prompt, appropriate action in response to student-on-student 13, as was the case here. The court reasoned that Title IX prohibits discriminatory government conduct on the basis of sex when it occurs in the context of State-run, federally funded educational programs and institutions. In particular, Title IX provides that no person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Prior to this case, it was well settled that 13 of a student in a federally funded educational program or activity, if it is perpetrated by a teacher or other employee of the funding recipient, can render the recipient liable for damages under Title IX. What was less clear was whether a school can be liable for failing to take prompt, appropriate action to remedy known 13 of one student by other students. Although inconsistent with three other circuits, the court ultimately held that a Title IX fund recipient may be held liable for its failure to take prompt, appropriate action in response to student-on-student 13 that takes place while students are involved in school activities or otherwise under the supervision of school employees, provided the recipient’s responsible officials actually knew that the harassment was taking place. The failure to promptly take appropriate steps in response to known 13 is itself intentional discrimination on the basis of sex. Since Jane Doe alleged such a failure, she properly alleged the sort of intentional discrimination against which Title IX protects. Doe’s case was then remanded to the district court for further proceedings consistent with the court’s opinion.



Benjamin v. McKinnon Court of Appeals Fourth District (2008)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The plaintiff sought a protection order against the defendants, a father and son, for orders of protection. The trial court awarded an order of protection against the son, but not against the father. The Court of Appeals considered whether there was a family relationship between the plaintiff and the defendants that permitted issuing an order of protection under the state law and decided that there was a family relationship because the plaintiff’s son had been married to the defendants’ daughter and sister respectively. They relied on previous case law that had found a sufficient relationship between families related by blood. Thus, the Court affirmed the order of the trial court, upholding the order of protection against the son and denying the father’s motion for sanctions.



Northtown Ford v. Illinois Human Rights Commission Court of Appeals Fourth District (1988)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The Illinois Human Rights Commission (HRC) filed a suit against Northtown Ford alleging discrimination against an employee who had been terminated with regard to sick leave benefits and salary, sex discrimination for reduction in salary, and retaliation. The administrative law judge entered a judgment in favor of the employee for salary claims and sick leave benefits, and the HRC affirmed. The Court of Appeals decided that the employee was allowed to amend the complaint because the amended claim was reasonably related to the original claim.



People v. Whitfield Court of Appeals Fourth District (1986)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The defendant plead guilty to violating an order of protection and sentenced to conditional discharge for a period of 12 months. Within that year, the State tried to revoke the conditional discharge alleging that the defendant had again harassed his ex-wife. The circuit court of the county revoked the discharged and sentenced the defendant to twelve months’ probation with the condition of two days’ imprisonment and sixty hours of community service. The defendant appealed the change in sentence in the Court of Appeals arguing that following his ex-wife in an automobile did not constitute harassment and that the Illinois Domestic Violence Act violates the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court of Appeals rejected the constitutional argument because it cannot be made on appeal if it was not originally made at trial court, and also ruled that the act constituted harassment after examining the definition within the context of the law. Thus, the Court upheld the order of the circuit court.



Castle Rock v. Gonzales Supreme Court of the United States (2005)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence

The Court held that a policeman could not be sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for failing to enforce a restraining order. Jessica Gonzales was granted a restraining order against her husband during their divorce proceedings. In violation of the restraining order, Gonzales's husband took her three children, and despite repeated efforts by Jessica to have the order enforced, the police took no action. During this time, Gonzales's husband killed the couple's three children. The Court reasoned that because Colorado law did not make enforcement of a restraining order mandatory, there was no individual right to its enforcement. This case was admitted before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (as Gonzales v. United States) and is awaiting a decision on the merits.



U.S. v. Morrison Supreme Court of the United States (2000)

Gender-based violence in general

The Court examined whether the Commerce Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment gave Congress the authority to enact portions of  the Violence Against Women Act ("VAWA") of 1994. In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that Congress lacked the authority to enact portions of the Act that allowed victims of gender-based violence to sue their attackers in federal court rather than state court. The Court held that Congress could not draw on the Commerce Clause for authority because violence against women was not an activity that substantially affected interstate commerce. The Court also held that the Act did not redress harm caused by state action and therefore did not fall under Congress's 14th amendment power. In his dissent, Justice Souter argued there was sufficient evidence to establish the effect of violence against women on interstate commerce.



U.S. v. Virginia Supreme Court [United States] (1996)

Gender discrimination

The Court was asked to determine the constitutionality of Virginia's decision to only admit men to the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), asking women to instead enroll at the all-women Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership (VWIL). In a 7-1 decision, the Court held that banning women from VMI was in violation of the 14th amendment. The Court held that Virginia had failed to give adequate reasoning for its decision to not admit women, and that women would not receive the same level of instruction at VWIL that they would receive at VMI.



McCormick v. School District of Mamaroneck United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (2004)

Gender discrimination

Two school districts scheduled their girls’ high school soccer season in the spring and the boys’ high school soccer in the fall. The effect of that schedule was that boys but not girls were able to compete in the regional and state championship games. Parents of the female students sued the school districts pursuant to Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 and 20 U.S.C. section 1681 (“Title IX”), which requires schools, among others, to provide equal athletic opportunities to its male and female students. The appellate court held that the schools violated Title IX when they scheduled girls’ soccer in the spring because it denied female students an equal athletic opportunity. The court noted that because the females could not compete in championship games, it implied that the schools did not value their athletic abilities as much as it valued the boys’ athletic abilities, which is illegal.



U.S. v. Rowland United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (2004)

Sexual violence and rape

Rowland was charged in a one-count indictment with possession of a firearm and ammunition after former conviction of a felony. One of the former convictions was sexual battery. The district court determined that the felony of sexual battery under Oklahoma law constituted a crime of violence under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, and, as such, could be used to enhance his felon in possession of a firearm sentence. Rowland appealed his conviction, specifically contesting the characterization of his prior conviction for sexual battery as premised upon conduct constituting a crime of violence. On appeal, the circuit court noted that Oklahoma’s sexual battery statute presupposed lack of consent, which implicated serious potential risk of physical injury to another. The court then went on to explain that physical injury need not be a certainty for a crime to pose a serious risk of physical injury; the possibility that a crime may be completed without injury is irrelevant to the determination of whether it constitutes a crime of violence which can be used to increase a base offense level for firearms offense conviction. Under this analysis, the court held that sexual battery, under Oklahoma law, implicates a concomitant serious risk of physical injury, and therefore Rowland’s sexual battery conviction was a “crime of violence” that could be used to enhance his sentence.



Gregory v. Daly United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (2001)

Gender discrimination

Plaintiff alleged that she was subjected to a hostile work environment and that when she complained, her employer fired her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). Plaintiff argued that her executive director subjected her to sexual ridicule, advances, and intimidation. He also intensified his harassment in response to her complaints, deprived her of work responsibilities, undermined her ability to do her job, and ultimately fired her. The lower court dismissed her case. On appeal, however, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal reversed that decision. It found that Plaintiff could reasonably have found her workplace to be both physically and sexually threatening, based on her allegations about the executive director. It reasoned that the alleged environment could have hurt Plaintiff’s job performance, discouraged her from remaining on the job, or kept her from advancing in her career. Thus, the court concluded, the conduct alleged was contrary to Title VII’s objective of promoting workplace equality. The appeals court also found that Plaintiff could proceed with her case against her employer for retaliation because he fired her after she complained about his behavior.