Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Five Men in Robes

Five men in robes are actively interpreting law and some would say: misinterpreting laws that go
against the American values of equality and justice. These three cases all have in common that these men in robes disregarded legal precedent, and the plain reading of the statutory language.

For many, these cases only affect a few, who are really the majority: women, people of color and with the last decision, older workers.

In Castle Rock V Gonzales* which in 2005 said that the police do not have to respond to every violation of an order of protection--this case was tragic: 3 young girls died because the police did not respond to their mother's 6 (!) calls over the course of an evening that her ex-husband had violated the order and had taken the girls. In this case, the justices found that police enforcement of even mandatory arrest statutes when there is a violation of a protective order is not a constitutionally protected property interest. Protective Orders according to the Court are “benefits” that are not constitutionally protected entitlement property interests. And, though the Colorado law had stated if there was a violation the police shall arrest the violator, reinterpreted the word shall to mean may--as in may or may not. Congress did add a section to the Violence Against Women Act authorization in 2005 which set up Jessica Gonzales Victim Assistants to serve as liaisons between DV victims and law enforcement agencies in order to effectively enforce protection orders.

In 2007, in Ledbetter V Good Year Tire Co. the Justices decided that suits based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act over race or gender pay discrimination have no standing if the claims are based on decisions made by the employer 180 days ago or more--even if the employee had no knowledge of the original pay discrimination (and many do not, since it is considered gauche to talk about one's pay and in some companies grounds for punitive action). It has taken an act of Congress to re-state the original intent of Title VII (Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009).

And, in this session which just ended the 5-4 decision in an AGE discrimination case***, re-directs the burden of proof to rest solely with the worker who now must prove that age was a deciding factor previously, age only had to be one of the factors in a demotion or layoff. Congress needs to take corrective action.

So much for these justices and their ideological base who claim not to be activist judges

*Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005).
**Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007)
***Gross v. FBL Financial Services Inc. (No. 08-441) 526 F. 3d 356, vacated and remanded.

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plesterpI am appalled by the events that led to the Castle Rock V Gonzales case; the court's decision really added insult to injury, didn't it?
In the midst of the Rihanna/Chris Brown case, I was discussing with a colleague how justice doesn't apply to women, especially in cases in domestic violence. Then I recanted and said how I had not stayed current on DV policy or legislation and had hoped that we had made progress since I graduated. I see that I have been too complacent and its time to make a change.
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