Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School - Green Background

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United States
  • U.S. - Federal Courts and Various States
    • Thoreson v. Penthouse Int’l, Ltd., United States, New York Appellate Division First Department, 1992.
      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.”
  • Alabama
    • Ex parte Alabama Department of Youth Services, United States, Supreme Court of Alabama, 2003.
      Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, female minor children in the custody of Alabama’s Department of Youth Service (“DYS”), brought an action against DYS and its executive director, alleging federal claims of sexual harassment and abuse under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq. (“Title IX”) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and state claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring and supervision of DYS employees, and intentional misrepresentation. Defendants’ filed a motion to dismiss the claims based on various arguments for immunity, which the trial court denied. Defendants filed a petition for writ of mandamus directing the Circuit Court to dismiss the complaint. In ruling on Defendants’ petition, the Supreme Court considered each claim for immunity. First, DYS claimed it was immune from liability under the Eleventh Amendment. The Court, however, held that, because Congress enacted Title IX not only pursuant to its Article I powers, but also pursuant to its Fourteenth Amendment, § 5, power, Congress successfully abrogated the Eleventh Amendment immunity of the states from suits in federal and state courts for violations of Title IX. Second, the executive director argued he was entitled to federal qualified immunity from the § 1983 claim, since he was a government official. The Court disagreed, citing law holding that there is no state interest in protecting government officials accused of sexually molesting a child. Because the plaintiffs alleged that the executive director failed to protect them from harm even after he received notice of the sexual harassment and abuse, he did not have a clear legal right to dismissal of plaintiffs’ § 1983 claim on the ground of federal qualified immunity. Third, the Court found that, based on the sovereign immunity provision of the Alabama constitution, dismissal of plaintiffs’ state-law claims against the executive director in his official capacity was proper. However, the Court found that the doctrine of state-agent immunity did not warrant dismissal of plaintiffs’ state law claims against the executive director in his individual capacity.
  • Arizona
    • Ancich v. Ancich, United States, Arizona Court of Appeals, 2009.
      Father and Mother were divorced in 2003 and were granted joint custody of their son, Z.  In January 2008, Mother sought an order of protection against Father covering her house, her mother’s house, and Z’s school, claiming that Father, a police officer, had committed domestic violence against her, and had intimidated Z to a point where he left a suicide note.  After an evidentiary hearing, the family court found sufficient evidence to support an order protecting Mother.  The court found, however, evidence was insufficient to cover Z in the order, and thus removed Z’s school from coverage.

      Father appealed, arguing that the order was wrongly entered because only Mother’s side of the story “had been heard,” to which the court responded that the family court was entitled to resolve conflict in evidence.  The court determined that Mother’s account was more convincing, and thus rejected Father’s argument.  Father also argued that because of the protective order, he must check his service weapon at the end of every shift and asked for it again at the beginning of every shift.  As a result, he could not perform security work in off-duty hours.  The court did not consider the argument because Father failed to cite any legal authority in support of a need for him to perform off-duty security work.  Finally, Father argued that the protective order would diminish his right to participate decision-making about Z.  The court found the argument unconvincing because father was free to reach Mother via e-mail or phone.  Accordingly, the court affirmed the family court’s grant of a protective order covering Mother.
  • California
    • Gonzalez v. Munoz, United States, California Court of Appeal, 2007.
      Maria Elena Gonzalez (“Gonzalez”) filed for a temporary restraining order against her former partner, Maurelio Francisco Munoz (“Munoz”). She complained that Munoz violently attacked her on numerous occasions including burning her with hot grease, choking and beating her, and abusing her three-year-old daughter Flor. The trial court granted a temporary ex-parte restraining order to keep Munoz from Gonzalez and Flor. The court also issued personal conduct and stay-away orders, and granted physical and legal custody of Flor to Gonzalez with no visitation rights for Munoz. At a subsequent hearing regarding the orders, Gonzalez and Munoz both appeared without counsel and spoke through an interpreter. At the beginning of the hearing, the court told the parties it would make some “temporary orders under certain circumstances regarding custody and visitation” but could not make a paternity judgment. The court advised Gonzalez and Munoz that they would need to file a separate paternity suit to resolve issues related to custody and visitation of Flor. Munoz indicated he was not Flor’s parent but requested “reasonable visitation” on weekends. The court issued a restraining order that excluded Flor and extended for one year the portion of the prior restraining order that kept Munoz away from Gonzalez. But it did not address custody or visitation. Gonzalez then asked the court about child support, an indication she did not understand the discussion about a separate paternity proceeding. In a subsequent hearing a judge granted Munoz weekly supervised visits with Flor despite the abuse allegations. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court and found it erred and violated Section 6340 of the California’s Domestic Violence Prevention Act (the “Act”) when it failed to issue permanent custody of Flor to Gonzalez. The Act directs the court when applying the Act to “consider whether failure to make any of these orders may jeopardize the safety of the petitioner and the children for whom the custody or visitation orders are sought.” The Court of Appeal noted that, given Flor’s potential exposure to violence from Munoz, the trial court was charged with eliciting evidence about Flor’s parentage and whether the earlier custody and visitation orders needed to be modified or extended to “ensure the mutual safety of Gonzalez and Flor.” Also, because Munoz failed to show or to claim a parent-child relationship with Flor, the trial court should have extended the restraining order to cover Flor and entered the permanent custody order Gonzalez requested. The Court of Appeal admonished bench officers to play a “far more active role in developing the facts,” even at the expense of a particular court’s procedures, to avoid the high potential for danger to the Act’s target population—“largely unrepresented women and their minor children.” It noted the “special burden” on bench officers who “cannot rely on the propria persona litigants to know each of the procedural steps, to raise objections, and to otherwise protect their due process rights.”
  • Connecticut
    • State v. Swanson, United States, Connecticut Superior Court, 2000.
      Defendant argued that it was unconstitutional for a court to issue a protective order that resulted in barring a person from his home as a result of an arrest for domestic violence. Under Gen. Stat. § 46b-38c, a court is authorized to issue a protective order to include “provisions necessary to protect the victim from threats, harassment, injury or intimidation by the defendant including but not limited to, an order enjoining the defendant from (1) imposing any restraint upon the person or liberty of the victim; (2) threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting or sexually assaulting the victim; or (3) entering the family dwelling or the dwelling of the victim.” Here, the court had issued a protective order for the defendant’s wife. The defendant argued that the statute violated his substantive due process rights because he was precluded access to his home and property and became subject to enhanced criminal penalties and liabilities. The court found that even though the defendant had a due process interest, the statute was intended to protect victims and not, rather, punish defendants. The court noted that the state had a legitimate interest in providing this protection. Thus, the court found the statute to be constitutional and a court may bar a defendant from his home in a domestic violence situation.
  • Delaware
    • T.L. v. W.L., United States, Delaware Family Court, 2003.
      Here, the plaintiff sought a protection order from a Delaware court.  The defendant argued that a Delaware court had no jurisdiction over him, as the alleged abuse did not occur in Delaware, and he was a non-resident.  Further, the plaintiff and her children were present in Delaware only for two days upon filing the petition.  Id. at 508.  The court noted that Delaware enacted the Uniform Interstate Enforcement of Domestic Violence Protection Orders Act, which allows courts to register and enforce valid protection orders from other states.  Id. at 513.  The court found that because Delaware would recognize any protection order, the wife should have more appropriately requested the order in Ohio, as the defendant’s due process rights outweighed Delaware’s interests to protect its residents from domestic violence.
  • Florida
    • Garner v. State Commission on Ethics, United States, Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal, 1983.
      Complaints were filed with Florida Commission on Ethics against Garner alleging that he attempted to use his position as president of Hillsborough Community College to sexually harass or obtain sexual favors from various female personnel. Following a hearing on the complaints the Commission on Ethics suspended Garner from office for three months. Garner appealed based on Florida Statutes Section 112.313 which provides that “no public officer or employee of an agency shall corruptly use or attempt to use his official position … to secure a special privilege, benefit or exemption for himself or others …” The section defines “corruptly” as “done with a wrongful intent and for the purpose of obtaining ... any benefit resulting from some act or omission of a public servant which is inconsistent with the proper performance of his public duties.” Garner claimed that this statute did not provide adequate notice that 13 was prohibited and that it was intended to cover only economic benefits. In addition, Garner claimed that there were no adverse job-related effects upon employees subject to his conduct. This Court held that since the charges against Garner included his obtaining sexual favors, Garner was “benefited” and that his actions were consistent with the definition of “corrupt” as being inconsistent with the performance of his official duties. Furthermore the Court indicated that it could find no legislative intent to restrict the reach of the statute to economic benefits and that there is no requirement in the statute that as a result of the public officer’s efforts to obtain a benefit from an employee that employee will necessarily be impacted in any particular way. As such, the Court upheld Garner’s suspension.
  • Illinois
    • Mejia v. Catholic Charities of the Archdioceses of Chicago, United States, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, 2015.
      Plaintiff worked for Defendant when she became pregnant with a high-risk pregnancy. Plaintiff told supervisor that she was not strong enough to endure the pregnancy and had several dangerous near-miscarriages. Plaintiff was shortly demoted to a position which included manual labor. After work-related anxiety attacks, she prematurely delivered a son. Plaintiff brought claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, gender discrimination, and pregnancy-related retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as a negligence claim on behalf of her son. Defendant moved to dismiss the claims brought on behalf of Plaintiff’s son. The court determined that children have a right to be born free of prenatal injuries which a breach of duty on the mother’s behalf could foreseeably cause and that a child has a right to recover for injuries obtained prenatally from the negligence of another. Accordingly, the court denied the motion to dismiss.
  • Indiana
    • Joslyn v. State, United States, Indiana Supreme Court, 2011.
      Stephanie Livingston moved in with Richard Joslyn, her third cousin, following a breakup with her youngest son’s father.  She lived with him for six months and struggled with alcohol.  She learned later that Joslyn recorded a video of them engaging in sexual intercourse but has no memory of the act.  Later she moved in with her mother and applied ex parte for a protective order under the Indiana Civil Protective Order Act.  The court issued the order which “prohibited Joslyn from having any contact with Livingston.”  A deputy served Joslyn with a copy of the order by attaching it to the door of his residence.  The deputy “did not indicate on the return of service form that a copy of the order was also mailed to Joslyn’s last known address as required by Indiana Trial Rule 4.1.”  Later, Livingston noted several instances in which Joslyn watched her, left notes at her mother’s front door, asked her friends about her whereabouts, crashed her friend’s vehicle, and hid in a crawl space under her home.  In December, the State charged Joslyn with “class C felony stalking, four counts of class A misdemeanor invasion of privacy and a class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement.  The case went to trial by jury.  The jury found Joslyn guilty of all counts, except the resisting law enforcement count.   Joslyn appealed, and challenged “the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions, arguing the State did not prove he was properly served with the protective order.”  The Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions.  It found that Joslyn’s admission that he received notice left at his home was “sufficient to permit his conviction for invasion of privacy and stalking.”  The court noted that the statutes defining stalking and invasion of privacy require notice of an order, but the fact that the process server may not have sent a copy to his house by first class mail as required under Indiana Trial Rules is insufficient to overturn his convictions.  The court noted that the purpose of the Indiana Civil Protection Order Act is to “promote the protection and safety of all victims of domestic violence and prevent future incidents.”  It found that overturning a conviction due to an error in civil process, even when the court had issued the order and defendant had actual notice of the order, would be contrary to that purpose.
  • Iowa
    • Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Inc. v. Iowa Board of Medicine, United States, Supreme Court of Iowa, 2015.
      The Iowa Board of Medicine (“Board”) passed a rule of professional practice that prohibited telemedicine abortions, which are non-surgical abortions overseen by a medical practitioner via audio-visual connection. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland brought a claim against the Board citing that the prohibition of telemedicine abortions violated the equal protection clause by placing an undue burden on women seeking to exercise their right to terminate a pregnancy. The Iowa Supreme Court determined that the Board’s prohibition of telemedicine abortions would unduly limit rural women in Iowa from exercising their right to terminate a pregnancy. Additionally, the Court determined that the Board’s actions were politically motivated and did not constitute sound public policy given that trained professionals administered a physical examination and follow-up appointments were mandatory.
  • Kentucky
    • Ross v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, United States, Supreme Court of Kentucky, 2015.
      Cole Ross was convicted of murder and arson. He appealed his conviction claiming, among other things, that the Commonwealth of Kentucky used its preemptory challenges to dismiss female jurors on the basis of gender. Seven out of the nine peremptory challenges used by the Commonwealth to remove prospective jurors were used to dismiss women. The trial court found that the Commonwealth’s justifications were gender neutral and non-pretextual. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Kentucky found that the disproportionate striking of women jurors and the Commonwealth’s admission during jury selection that they wished to dismiss female jurors created the inference of gender discrimination. The Supreme Court of Kentucky found that this inference was not rebutted by a gender-neutral justification, thereby constituting a Batson violation. Accordingly, the Commonwealth violated the Equal Protection Clause by denying the women the right to be on a jury on the basis of their gender and thus the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings
  • Maine
    • Campbell v. Martin, United States, Maine Supreme Court, 2002.
      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.
  • Maryland
    • In re Maddox, United States, Maryland Court of Appeals, 1901.
      This case addressed the claims of Etta Haynie Maddox that she should be allowed to sit for the bar examination and receive admission to the bar despite a Maryland state statute limiting bar admission to “male citizens of Maryland.” The Maryland Court of Appeals denied her application, stating that the court did not have the power to enact legislation. Thus until the legislative branch declared that women could be admitted to the bar, the court did not have any power to admit Maddox.
  • Massachusetts
    • Ramsdell v. Western Mass. Bus Lines, Inc., United States, Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, 1993.
      Here, a female employee appealed the decision of the Commission Against Discrimination which dismissed her complaint against her employer for sexual discrimination.  The Massachusetts Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s decision.  Under Gen .L. C. 151B, §4(1) (1990), employment discrimination on the basis of gender is prohibited.  The Massachusetts Code defines sexual harassment as “sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when (a) submission to or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or as a basis for employment decisions; (b) such advances, requests or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment.”  Gen. L. C. 151B, §1(18) (1990). 
  • Michigan
    • Chambers v. Trettco, Inc., United States, Michigan Supreme Court, 2000.
      A former employee brought an action against her employer under the Michigan Civil Rights Act.  She alleged that the employer was vicariously liable for 13 she suffered under her temporary supervisor.  The Michigan Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals wrongly relied on federal law to claims brought under the Michigan Civil Rights Act regarding 13.  The Michigan Supreme Court described two types of 13 outlined under Michigan law (M.C.L. § 37.2103(i), one type, “quid pro quo harassment” occurs when submission to conduct is a term or condition to obtain employment, or is used as a factor in determining decisions regarding employment.  A hostile work environment occurs when an employee must show that the employee was subjected to unwelcome sexual conduct or communication on the basis of sex, and “was intended to or in fact did substantially interfere with the employee’s employment or created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment, and respondeat superior.  The court noted that while it has found vicarious liability in cases of quid pro quo harassment, it has not when the allegation is hostile work environment because there the supervisor “acts outside the scope of actual or apparent authority to hire, fire, discipline or promote.”  Instead, an employer will be vicariously liable if the employee shows that the employer failed to take prompt remedial action.  The court found no evidence of quid pro quo harassment; however, it did find that plaintiff’s testimony established a hostile work environment claim.  It remanded the case for a determination of whether the employer failed to take prompt remedial action in response to her hostile work environment claim.
  • Minnesota
    • Frieler v. Carlson Mktg. Group, Inc., United States, Minnesota Supreme Court, 2008.
      Here, the appellant, Judy Frieler, sued the respondent for violating § 363A.03(43) and § 363A.08(2) of the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), “based on a hostile working environment due to sexual harassment by a supervisor.” Ms. Frieler worked part-time and was interested in a full-time position in the shipping department. She expressed her interest and was referred to Ed Janiak, the supervisor of that department. Ms. Frieler alleged that Janiak had verbally abused her and on three to four occasions lured her into a locked room, pressed himself against her and made sexual advances towards her. Ms. Frieler reported the incident to her employer (respondent) but before a full investigation could take place, Janiak resigned from his position. Janiak was made aware of the allegations just a few days before his resignation, and he denied them. Ms. Frieler subsequently sued her employer under § 363A.03(43) and § 363A.08(2). The trial court and court of appeals dismissed her sexual harassment claims for failing to raise an issue of material fact as to whether the employer knew about the harassment and whether Janiak was Ms. Frieler’s supervisor for vicarious liability purposes. The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed and remanded the court of appeals’ ruling. The court held that: 1) a plaintiff does not need to prove that his or her employer knew about the harassment in order to maintain a claim under the MHRA; 2) employers are not strictly liable for sexual harassment claims; 3) “an employer is subject to vicarious liability for an actionable hostile environment created by a supervisor with immediate authority over a victimized employee;” and 4) in this case, there was a material issue of fact whether Janiak was Ms. Friedler’s supervisor at the time of the harassment.
  • Missouri
    • Hill v. Ford Motor Co., United States, Missouri Supreme Court, 2009.
      Cynthia Hill worked under the supervision of various people including Kenny Hune. Mr. Hune often made sexual comments to Ms. Hill and asked her inappropriate personal questions. Ms. Hill told Mr. Hune that she was offended by his comments and she repeatedly rejected his sexual advances. Upon receiving a complaint about Mr. Hune from Ms. Hill and another female employee, group leader Pete Wade raised these complaints with Mr. Hune. A few months after this, Ms. Hill was assigned to Mr. Hune’s supervision, where Mr. Hune refused to work with her, branded her a hostile worker, and created problems over small or non-issues. When Ms. Hill sought to bring a complaint to Mr. Edds, the labor relations supervisor, Mr. Edds told Ms. Hill to get psychiatric help and not return to work until she had done so. Upon receiving such treatment Ms. Hill resorted to the company’s 24-hour “Hotline” to report Mr. Edds and Mr. Hune. An hour later, Mr. Edds had suspended Ms. Hill from work for three days for a minor mistake. Upon Ms. Hill’s return to work, Mr. Edds told her she had been fired. The Missouri Supreme Court held that there were genuine issues of material fact to preclude the grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer. There was enough evidence for a jury to find that Mr. Hune had created a hostile work environment through his constant sexual harassment, which would constitute gender discrimination under MHRA 213.055.
  • Nebraska
    • Lacey v. State, United States, Nebraska Supreme Court, 2009.
      Lacey worked at the Department of Correctional Services as a temporary employee. Lacey’s supervisor was known for “creating a fun atmosphere” by “giving each other a hard time in a joking manner.” The supervisor’s jokes and questions were often sexual in nature, including inquiring Lacey about the frequency, locations, and types of sex she and her boyfriend had. Towards the end of Lacey’s temporary placement, the jokes and questions were made daily and became increasingly vulgar. Supervisor also subjected Lacey to unwanted touching. Lacey eventually complained and the supervisor was ordered to stay away from here. Soon after, Lacey was terminated under questionable circumstances. Lacey filed a complaint against the Department of Correctional Services on June 7, 2006, alleging, among other things, sexual harassment in violations of the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (NFERA). The trial court awarded Lacey $60,000 in damages for her sexual harassment claim. The State appealed.
  • New Hampshire
    • Hemenway v. Hemenway, United States, New Hampshire Supreme Court, 2010.
      Here, the plaintiff and the defendant were married and had four children. They all lived in Florida until the plaintiff left with their children and moved to New Hampshire. The parties subsequently divorced. Upon her arrival in New Hampshire, the plaintiff applied for a temporary restraining order against the defendant in Massachusetts, because he criminally threatened her and their children and he threatened her at her parents’ house in Massachusetts. Family court issued a protective order that prohibited the defendant from threatening or abusing his wife or children, contacting the plaintiff absent special authorization by court, coming within a distance of her home or work, or taking or damaging the plaintiff’s property. The family court also ordered the defendant to hand over his firearms. The husband appealed and argued that the court had no personal jurisdiction over him as he was a nonresident and the alleged abuse never occurred in New Hampshire. The court found that the family court could issue a protective order against the defendant as the purpose of New Hampshire’s domestic violence statute was to protect victims within that state, but that it could not require any affirmative act on the part of the defendant. Thus, the order could stand as it directed the defendant to refrain from seeing or contacting the plaintiff, but it could not direct him to relinquish his firearms.
  • New Jersey
    • Cesare v. Cesare, United States, New Jersey Supreme Court, 1998.
      Mrs. Cesare sought a restraining order against her husband under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act following an argument about ending their marriage. During this argument Mr. Cesare allegedly threatened Mrs. Cesare that she would never get custody of their children, and that he would never sell the house and share the proceeds. Prior to this argument, Mr. Cesare had threatened he would kill her, or “get someone else to do it very cheaply” before she got custody of their children or shared assets. Mr. Cesare was on medication for depression and kept three loaded guns in the house. Fearing for her safety, Mrs. Cesare took her children to the police that night. The superior court granted Mrs. Cesare a temporary restraining order despite there being no explicit threats to kill Mrs. Cesare that night, finding that under the totality of the circumstances, there was sufficient cause to issue the order based on the couple’s prior history, course of conduct, and the credibility of the different witnesses. The appellate division reversed the superior court’s holding and found that the trial court’s ruling constituted a “manifest denial of justice” and that Mr. Cesare’s conduct did not qualify as a terroristic threat, required under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3(b). The court found the record lacked statements that were intended to put Mrs. Cesare in imminent fear of her life, and that the trial court should have used a reasonable person standard rather than a subjective one. The court of appeals in New Jersey reversed and found that there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s finding. The court found that the Domestic Violence Act has broad legislative intent and that an appellate court should give a deferential standard of review to a trial court. The court noted that the Domestic Violence Act was “intended to ‘assure the victims of domestic violence the maximum protection from abuse the law can provide’.”
  • New Mexico
    • Littell v. Allstate Ins. Co., United States, New Mexico Court of Appeals, 2007.
      Littell worked as a paralegal for Allstate in 1996. Aakhus, Littell’s supervisor, regularly told demeaning jokes, touched women inappropriately, commented about other employees’ sexual preferences, and tolerated similar behaviors by other coworkers. After Littell anonymously reported Aakhus to Allstate headquarters, Aakhus started to belittle her in public, disciplined her for pretextual reasons, and became more aggressive in general. Littell eventually left her job after Aakhus denied her leave to deal with a “family crisis.” Aakhus was discharged after Littell left Allstate. Littell subsequently sued Allstate, alleging, among other things, sexual harassment and retaliatory discharge. The jury reached a verdict in favor of Littell, awarding her $360,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages. Allstate appealed.
  • New York
    • In re Romano, United States, New York Court of Appeals, 1999.
      The Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, removed Romano, a town and village justice, from office, in part, because of his insensitivity to victims of domestic violence.  The justice engaged in egregious misconduct in his courtroom, at an arraignment, where a defendant was charged with violating a protection order and assaulting his wife.  After reviewing the charges, Romano stated, from the bench, “What’s wrong with that?  You’ve got to keep them in line once in a while.”  The Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence in the record supported the Commission’s findings that Romano seriously abused his judicial authority.  The court reasoned that Romano’s misconduct demonstrated a pattern of serious disregard for the standards of judicial conduct that “exist to maintain respect toward everyone who appears in a court.”
  • North Carolina
    • Elrod v. Elrod, United States, North Carolina Court of Appeals, 2008.
      Plaintiff and Defendant were married in 1998 but entered into a separation agreement in 2007.  Plaintiff and Defendant were living together.  They were discussing work that needed to be done around the house when defendant husband requested that the wife look at the door sweep.  The wife bent down to look and subsequently could not recall anything that took place until she woke up around 3:00 am and found herself in bed with a “terrible headache” and extreme nausea.  Defendant told her that she had had a seizure and had hit her head.  She went to the hospital.  The doctor found that her injuries were life-threatening and consistent with domestic violence, not with a seizure.  Her family members testified that at the hospital defendant acted nervous.  When her son insinuated to defendant that defendant caused the injuries, defendant responded “What man would walk away from three million dollars?”  Three days later plaintiff filed a complaint and motion for a domestic violence protective order.  The trial court entered the protective order, finding that defendant caused the plaintiff’s severe injuries.  Defendant appealed, arguing that the finding was “not supported by competent evidence” and “the findings did not support the conclusion that domestic violence had occurred.”  The appellate court noted that in North Carolina, domestic violence is “the commission of one or more of the following acts upon an aggrieved party or upon a minor child residing with or in the custody of the aggrieved party by a person with whom the aggrieved party has or has had a personal relationship, but does not include acts of self-defense: (1) Attempting to cause bodily injury, or intentionally causing bodily injury.”  The court reviewed the evidence and found that it supported the trial court’s finding – the defendant’s testimony was “not plausible.”  
  • Ohio
    • Felton v. Felton, United States, Supreme Court of Ohio, 1997.
      Trial court issued a protective order based on testimony of violent episodes of appellant’s husband.  Because of these episodes, she feared that he would kill her.  She filed criminal charges of domestic violence against him, and the county court issued a temporary protection order.  The court held that the testimony regarding the former husband’s violent tendencies warranted the issuance of a protective order, and the fact that the marriage dissolution decree already forbade them from harassing each other didn’t bar the issuance of the order.  It held that the preponderance of the evidence standard applied.
  • Oregon
    • State ex rel. Marshall v. Hargreaves, United States, Oregon Supreme Court, 1986.
      Here, the relator-wife sought the issuance of a writ of mandamus to compel defendant circuit court judge to conduct a hearing on her petition for a restraining order and to prevent abuse, pursuant to the Oregon Abuse Prevention Act, Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 107.700-107.730. The Supreme Court of Oregon issued a peremptory writ, requiring the judge to conduct forthwith a hearing on the wife’s petition for a restraining order and to prevent abuse and to determine whether there existed an immediate and present danger of abuse to the wife. Defendant-circuit court judge had refused to issue a restraining order to the benefit of the relator-wife, because she had already obtained two earlier restraining orders based upon allegations similar to those the relator presented in the present case, but had promptly dismissed them. However, the judge did not hold a hearing on the merits as contemplated by ORS 107.718(1) to determine whether the relator was in immediate and present danger of abuse by the husband. The Supreme Court of Oregon issued a peremptory writ of mandamus, finding that defendant-circuit judge had no discretion to deny relator a hearing. The Court further ordered defendant to conduct such a hearing to determine whether there is an immediate and present danger of abuse to relator, but expressed no opinion on the merits of the petition for a restraining order.
  • Pennsylvania
    • Allegheny County v. Wilcox, United States, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, 1983.
      Here, the plaintiff’s employer, the Court of Common Pleas, appealed a ruling by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”).  The PHRC had ruled that the employers discriminated against female secretaries with respect to compensation and directed them to upgrade the secretaries’ wages and to pay them back pay.  The Court of Common Pleas argued that the PHRC could not require it to increase the wages and also that it was not considered an “employer” under 43 P.S. § 954(b).  The Court argued that the definition of employers does not include a reference to courts and that any application of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act violates the doctrine of separation of powers by allowing the executive and legislative branches to interfere upon the judicial branch. The court found that the Court of Common Pleas failed to show how its authority was encumbered by the Human Relations Act.  The court also found that compelling the upgrade or equalization of pay was proper where, inversely, a court could compel a legislative body to spend money that is reasonably necessary for the body’s proper operation and administration.  Thus, the court affirmed the PHRC’s finding and ruled that the PHRC could require the employers to increase the female secretaries’ wages and order back pay.
  • Rhode Island
    • Scuncio Chevrolet, Inc. v. Salandra, United States, Rhode Island Superior Court, 1988.
      Plaintiff worked for the defendant and sold cars. Following termination of her employment, she filed a complaint with the Humans Rights Commission. The Commission found she was entitled to back pay, fringe benefits, interest, and that the defendant was to cease and desist its unlawful employment practices. In response to defendant’s appeal, the court found that the plaintiff’s testimony that she was never confronted for unsatisfactory work performance, and she neither received formal evaluations, nor written or oral warnings was credible. Notwithstanding her positive performance, the plaintiff was terminated. The defendant argued that she was “laid-off,” and that the Commission failed to take into account that the defendant did not hire a male replacement for the plaintiff’s position. However, the defendant did hire a male employee a day before it fired the plaintiff. The court found that the Commission was entitled to reject the defendant’s testimony and find that it was clear that the plaintiff was replaced by a male employee. Thus, the Commission’s finding of liability was affirmed.
  • South Carolina
    • State v. Prince, United States, South Carolina Supreme Court, 1993.
      Prince and his wife were married for two years.  After their divorce, his wife, Tabitha, moved into her own apartment with their son, Matthew.  Prince began visiting her occasionally without invitation or notice, under the pretext of wanting to see their son.  Despite a restraining order, Prince showed up at her apartment several times.  On one occasion, Prince slashed her tires and defaced her car.  Prince was later indicted for aggravated stalking and malicious property damage.  Prince’s counsel argued that damage to property “is not an act of violence under South Carolina Code section 16-3-1700(C) . . . sufficient to support a charge of aggravated stalking.”  The court, acknowledging that this was an issue of first impression, disagreed with Prince’s counsel, and concluded that an act of violence, for purposes of the statute, included an act of violence against property, not just against persons.  The court stated, “in our state, stalking can take many forms; it can be either a pattern of conduct causing fear of damage to one’s person, or a pattern of conduct causing fear of damage to one’s property.  If simple stalking can consist of fear of property damage, it logically follows that aggravated stalking can consist of actual property damage.”  It noted that requiring bodily injury in order to be found guilty of aggravated stalking does not promote the public policy of wanting the anti-stalking law to prevent bodily injury or death.
  • Tennessee
    • Doe v. Corrections Corporation of America, United States, United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, 2015.
      Three female petitioners sued a state-managed prison facility after prison officials required them to verify that they were menstruating before bringing feminine hygiene products into a male prison when visiting inmates. One of the petitioners’ children was also forced to watch the mother being searched because prison rules require children be supervised at all times. The women cited violations of due process, invasion of privacy, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, unconstitutional seizures, unconstitutional search and a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court denied the prison’s motion to dismiss, noting that filing a case against an agent in his official capacity as well as the entity to which the individual agent is not legally precluded and that liability can rest on the individuals given that the actors at least knowingly acquiesced in the search and likely facilitated the policy that allowed it to happen.
  • Texas
    • Clements v. Haskovec, United States, Court of Appeals of Texas – Corpus Cristi-Edinburg District, 2008.
      Ira Clements lived with his elderly wife, Helen, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  Their daughter, Linda, believed that her father was abusing her mother.  When Linda arrived at the family home with the intention of removing her mother from Ira’s home, Ira grabbed Linda by her hair and drew back his fist as though he would hit her.  As Helen tried to sneak out of the house, Ira grabbed her arm and pulled her back into the house.  When police officers arrived to investigate, Ira admitted to them that he grabbed Linda’s hair and stated that he “should have beat the hell out of [Linda]”; Linda was visibly nervous and shaken and reported to the officer that she feared for her life.  A “family violence” protective order issued against Ira behalf of Helen, Linda, and Linda’s husband pursuant to section 71.004 of the Texas Family Code.  Ira challenged the protective order on the grounds that (i) his conduct did not constitute “family violence” under the Code and (ii) there was no threat that family violence would likely occur in the future.  As to Ira’s first argument, the court held that Ira’s behavior fit the definition of “family violence” even though he never actually struck his wife or daughter because he put a family member “in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, [or] assault.” The protective order was legally sufficient because Linda, her sister, and two police officers testified that Ira grabbed Linda’s hair and drew back his fist as if he would hit her, and, that Ira had repeatedly threatened Helen and made her fearful—thus, there was not a complete absence of vital fact and the evidence amounted to more than a “mere scintilla.”  As to Ira’s second argument, the court held that there was sufficient evidence for the finding that family violence would likely occur in the future.  In so finding, the court explicitly extended to family violence protective order cases the well-settled family law principle that evidence a person has engaged in abusive or neglectful conduct permits an inference that the person will continue this behavior in the future.
  • Utah
    • Roe v. Patton, United States, United States District Court for the District of Utah, 2015.
      Plaintiffs Kami and Angie Roe sued the Executive Director of the Utah Department of Health in his official capacity and sought a preliminary injunction seeking a court order to enjoin the defendants from applying sections of the Utah Uniform Parentage Act differently to male and female spouses of women who become pregnant via sperm donation. The provisions of the Utah statute provide that a married man can become the legal parent to a child conceived by his wife through sperm donation by filing mutual consent in writing, but defendants have declined to apply this same rule to a married woman in respect to her wife. Instead, they have required that she undergo a step-parent adoption process. The court balanced the failure of defendants to provide a rational basis for the unequal treatment with the fact that the plaintiffs and similarly situated wives would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction to compel the defendants to equally apply the statute was not granted. As such, the court granted the preliminary injunction.
  • Vermont
    • Allen v. Dep't. of Employment and Training, United States, Vermont Supreme Court, 1992.
      Plaintiff was denied unemployment benefits by the Employment Security Board because prior to quitting her job, she did not notify her business manager that she was being sexually harassed by her supervisor. The plaintiff appealed. Plaintiff worked as a secretary for housekeeping and maintenance.  For several months during her employment, the plaintiff’s supervisor made repeated sexual advances towards her by grabbing her, kissing her, and apologizing thereafter.  Plaintiff complained once, but otherwise never complained to anyone other than her supervisor, and eventually quit her job out of fear of further unwanted sexual advances.  She testified that she had never received a personnel policy, never knew of the existence of such a policy, and believed that she was to complain to her immediate supervisor.  Notwithstanding, the Board found the plaintiff did not show that she had “good cause” to quit her job, since her business manager had no knowledge of the harassment.  Under 21 V.S.A. § 1344(a)(2)(A), a party may not receive unemployment benefits where she quits voluntarily unless she shows she quit with “good cause.”  On appeal, the court found that if there were a personnel policy in effect, there was no evidence that it was ever made known or available to the defendant’s employees.  The court found that the plaintiff could not adhere to a policy (to notify a manager) that is not “sufficiently disseminated by the employer to employees.”  Thus, the court reversed the Board’s conclusion and remanded the matter.
  • Virginia
    • Crawford v. Commonwealth, United States, Supreme Court of Virginia, 2011.
      Sarah Crawford ended an abusive relationship with her husband but remained fearful of him and took various precautions to protect herself, including applying for an order of protection.  She signed an affidavit for the order, in which she recounted instances of past abuse, including threats to her life.  The following month, she was found murdered and evidence overwhelmingly pointed to her ex-husband.  Before the trial, Crawford made a motion to suppress the affidavit, arguing that the document was testimonial hearsay.  However, the trial court admitted the affidavit, holding that under the doctrine of “forfeiture by wrongdoing,” Crawford forfeited his right to confrontation with respect to statements by Sarah.  The trial court agreed and a redacted version of the affidavit was admitted.  A jury convicted Crawford of capital murder, abduction with intent to defile, rape, grand larceny, use of a firearm in the commission of a murder, and use of a firearm in the commission of abduction.  Crawford appealed, arguing, inter alia, that admission of the affidavit violated his rights under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The appellate court reversed every conviction except for the grand larceny conviction on grounds that Crawford’s Sixth Amendment rights were violated by the admission of the affidavit. The Virginia Supreme Court held that the admission of the affidavit of a victim in support of her application for a preliminary protective order against defendant was testimonial and therefore violated the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right of confrontation. It also held the trial court could not admit the affidavit under the “forfeiture by wrongdoing” doctrine because there was no evidence that the defendant killed the victim to prevent the victim from testifying. However, it found that the admission of the affidavit was harmless since the other evidence against Crawford was overwhelming.
  • Washington
    • MacKay v. Acorn Custom Cabinetry, United States, Washington Supreme Court, 1995.
      Plaintiff-ex-employee challenged the jury instruction given by the Superior Court, which directed the jury to find in plaintiff’s favor in a discrimination case brought pursuant to Wash. Rev. Code § 49.60.180(2), only if it concluded, inter alia, that gender was the determining factor in the decision by defendant ex-employer to discharge plaintiff. RCW 49.60.180(2) provides that “[i]t is an unfair practice for any employer . . . (2) [t]o discharge or bar any person from employment because of age, sex, marital status, race, creed, color, national origin, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained guide dog or service dog by a disabled person.” The Supreme Court of Washington declined to read the “because of” language of the statute, as requiring proof that one of the attributes enumerated in RCW 49.60.180(2) was a “determining factor” in the employer’s adverse employment decision. Rather, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision, holding that in order to prevail on a discrimination claim brought pursuant to RCW 49.60.180(2), plaintiff only needed to prove that her gender was a “substantial factor” in defendant’s decision to terminate her employment.
  • West Virginia
    • State v. Mechling, United States, Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, 2006.
      Appellant argued that the court wrongly allowed the admission of victim’s statements regarding alleged battery by the defendant after defendant was convicted of domestic battery.  The victim made statements to others and did not appear in court or testify at trial; therefore, appellant had no opportunity to cross-examine the victim.  The court held that the victim’s statements were “improperly admitted in violation of the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the . . . Constitution and Article III, Section 14 of the West Virginia Constitution.”  The lower court had permitted the state to introduce the victim’s statements made to two sheriff’s deputies.  The West Virginia Supreme Court held that these statements were testimonial and should not have been admitted into evidence under the Confrontation Clause.  Similarly, the victim’s statements to a neighbor were improperly admitted. The Court, however, noted that domestic violence cases are unique because victims rarely call the police or use the criminal justice system, and often fail to “cooperate with prosecutors because they fear retaliation.”  The Court conceded that the Confrontation Clause, therefore, gives defendants a “windfall” because domestic violence victims are “notoriously susceptible to intimidation….”  The Court therefore emphasized the “doctrine of forfeiture” under which “an accused who obtains the absence of a witness by wrongdoing forfeits the constitutional right to confrontation.”
  • Wisconsin
    • State v. Friedrich, United States, Wisconsin Supreme Court, 1987.
      Defendant was convicted of two counts of second-degree sexual assault for assaulting his 14-year old niece by marriage.  The Wisconsin Supreme Court held that the trial court correctly refused to allow a psychologist for the defense to testify that the defendant did not fit the psychological profile of incestuous sex offenders.  It held that testimony regarding defendant’s sex acts against minors was admissible.  It also held that testimony by an adult woman of defendant’s 13, although an error, was harmless error.  The court agreed that the testimony of the two individuals regarding sex acts against minors was admissible because it showed a “general scheme or motive to obtain sexual gratification from young girls” under Wisconsin evidentiary law.  It agreed that admitting the testimony of the woman who alleged 13 was error since it did not similarly show a general scheme, but that admission was harmless error since it was not possible that the error contributed to the defendant’s conviction.  The court noted that the trial court applies a two step process to determine whether evidence of other crimes is admissible, looking at whether it falls into one of the exceptions listed in the applicable statute, and second determining whether prejudice outweighs the probative value of the evidence.  Additionally, in sex crime cases involving children, the court noted that there is “greater latitude of proof as to other like occurrences.”
  • Wyoming
    • Cobb v. Cobb, United States, Wyoming Supreme Court, 2000.
      Appellant-mother challenged the order of the District Court, awarding child custody to appellee-father and giving her the same visitation rights that appellee had when appellant had custody. The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed the order because domestic violence suffered by appellant at the hands of a boyfriend in front of the children was a change in circumstances that warranted a change in custody to protect the parties’ children. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-113(a) provides that “the court shall consider evidence of spousal abuse or child abuse as being contrary to the best interest of the child.” Although the abuse of mother was not technically “spousal” abuse because they were not married, the Supreme Court of Wyoming agreed with the District Court that the statute applied to non-marital domestic relationships. Therefore, domestic violence experienced by the mother warranted a change in custody to protect the children from potential abuse and was in their best interest.