U. Miami lawyers from our new Human Rights Clinic won a major moral victory for their client Jessica Lenahan (formerly formerly Jessica Gonzales) in a decision announcedtoday July 21, 2011 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States. Ms. Lenahan got nothing from the US Supreme Court in 2005, losing big in the famous Castle Rock v. Gonzales case, an occasion in which the Supreme Court (per Justice Scalia) famously held that Ms. Gonzales (as she then was) did not have an enforceable Due Process Clause interest in police enforcement of a restraining order against her husband even when the police had probable cause to believe the order had been violated. In the event, despite her telephoned pleas, and the fact that violation of the restraining order was a crime under Colorado law, the Castle Rock, Colorado police did nothing — and Ms. Lenahan’s husband murdered her three daughters.
In contrast, the IACHR said today that the US authorities’ pattern of insufficient attention to domestic violence and violence against women, combined with the failure to react in this case, violated US obligations:
“[T]he Commission holds that the systemic failure of the United States to offer a coordinated and effective response to protect Jessica Lenahan and her daughters from domestic violence, constituted an act of discrimination, a breach of their obligation not to discriminate, and a violation of their right to equality before the law under Article II of the American Declaration. The Commission also finds that the State failure to undertake reasonable measures to protect the life of Leslie, Katheryn and Rebecca Gonzales, and that this failure constituted a violation of their right to life established in Article I of the American Declaration, in relation to their right to special protection contained in Article VII of the American Declaration. (¶ 170)”
Congratulations to Carrie Bettinger-Lopez, our students from the Clinic, and all the other lawyers from around the country involved in this case. …