October 2018 Newsletter

Changes to the Military’s Response to Domestic Violence

The 2019 John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was recently signed into law and included important provisions regarding the military’s response to domestic violence. The first is to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), federal law enacted by Congress that defines the military justice system and lists criminal offenses under military law. Article 128b, Domestic Assault, will be the first-ever domestic violence-specific crime within the UCMJ. The hope is that this new article will make it easier to determine if a military conviction triggers federal and state firearms prohibitions, as well as provide a more complete criminal history to those working in the civilian justice system.

Another provision requires military installations to establish multi-disciplinary teams that will assist in investigations of domestic and child abuse cases and promote information sharing among various parties. This provision implies that commanders can appoint civilian agency personnel to these teams, likely to improve military-civilian coordination in handling cases. It is unclear how these teams might interface with existing Incident Determination Committees (IDCs). IDCs review domestic and child abuse incident reports to determine if clinical intervention is appropriate. They also submit substantiated cases to the individual Service’s (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard) central registry for data collection. IDCs are not part of the military justice process, which it appears the multi-disciplinary teams will be, nor do they make recommendations on discipline.

The 2019 NDAA orders the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress on the feasibility of extending the Special Victims Counsel (SVC) program to domestic violence victims. The SVC program was created several years ago to provide independent legal representation and assistance to certain classes of sexual assault victims. The NDAA also mandates standardization of the procedures for expedited transfer in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault. These procedures allow servicemember victims to be moved-out of commands or off installations away from their abusers.

Before it was signed into law, a provision regarding military protection orders was stripped out of the NDAA. Currently, only servicemembers' commanders can issue military protection orders. The provision would have extended this authority to military judges and federal magistrates on military installations. Such a change could increase the number of MPOs issued and potentially facilitate civilian enforcement of MPOs by satisfying legal due process issues. Congress may consider reinserting this in the 2020 NDAA.

For more info, contact Brian Clubb, Military and Veterans Advocacy Program Coordinator, at bclubb@bwjp.org or 571-384-0985. For additional military and veteran-specific resources, click here.

Navigating Appeals in Family Law Cases

Due to financial constraints, many survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) are self-represented. When seeking legal protections, navigating the system alone can be daunting; it typically involves enduring long lines at the self-help center (if one exists), completing legal forms with minimal to no guidance, and making a case for protection in a public courtroom with very little understanding of the court system. When a self-represented survivor is denied the legal protections they need due to these system pitfalls, appealing a case may be beneficial. However, appeals in domestic violence cases are rarely brought. This is largely because they require specialized expertise. In addition, appeals can be incredibly expensive. For the self-represented survivor who is often at an economic disadvantage compared to their abuser, the cost of an appeal can be a tremendous deterrent. As a result, pro bono representation is key.

With quality pro bono representation, appeals are a very effective tool for correcting legal decisions made at the trial court level. In fact, trial courts are more likely to comply with domestic violence laws in states where family law cases are appealed. (Nancy K.D. Lemon, Statutes Creating Rebuttable Presumptions Against Custody to Batterers: How Effective are They?, 28 Wm Mitchell L. Rev. 601 [2001].)  Moreover, because appeals create binding case law on lower courts in their jurisdiction, appeals have a broad and sweeping impact across the legal landscape. As a result, one meritorious appeal raised by a survivor has the power to affect thousands of other survivors with familiar facts or similar legal issues – and this is where case selection for appeals becomes critical.

California’s Family Violence Appellate Project (FVAP) is an example of an organization helping survivors of IPV on the appellate level. Founded in 2012 by two Berkeley Law students, the non-profit FVAP aims to break the intergenerational cycle of domestic abuse by creating a powerful body of case law that supports California’s strong and well-crafted domestic violence statutes. To do this, FVAP partners with pro bono attorneys from California’s top law firms and corporate legal teams to provide both low- and moderate-income survivors with high-quality legal representation. FVAP also provides technical assistance to attorneys and unrepresented litigants across the state, and has trained hundreds of attorneys, advocates, mediators, and bench officers on domestic violence issues arising in family law cases. With this multi-faceted approach, FVAP strives to assist as many survivors as possible, and ultimately to change the legal landscape for all survivors of domestic violence.

To read more, click here.

Sujata Warrier, PhD, Honored with National Award

BWJP’s Training & Technical Assistance Director Sujata Warrier, PhD, recently was awarded the Paul Fink Interpersonal Violence Prevention Award by the National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence Across the Lifespan. This award is given to an individual who has made significant contributions to our understanding of how multiple forms of violence are related and the importance of addressing them through development and implementation of an integrated violence prevention and multicultural approach. Sujata was presented the award at their Annual International Summit on Violence, Abuse and Trauma held in September. The previous year, Sujata presented the summit’s opening plenary “We are All Just Different,” and was a panelist for the Mid-Summit Plenary Roundtable Discussion: “What is Intersectionality and Why Should You Care?”

The Annual International Summit on Violence, Abuse and Trauma is hosted by the Family Violence & Sexual Assault Institute DBA Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma. For more information, click here.

BWJP is Hiring!

BWJP is hiring a Deputy Project Director for the National Center on Domestic Violence & Firearms. This position is full-time and is based in Minneapolis. The Deputy Project Director assists in the management of the resource center on domestic violence and firearms to promote policies and practices that effectively implement DV-related restrictions on access to firearms and participates in other activities related to improving the overall criminal justice response to crimes of violence against women. S/he will analyze emerging research, policies and practices, engage in national conversations on these issues, and develop articles and papers on emerging responses and practices. S/he will develop and conduct relevant trainings around the country and provide technical assistance to a wide range of professionals and advocates.

To read more, click here.

Support BWJP this Holiday Season

If you’re looking to support BWJP this holiday season, there are a few easy ways. When holiday shopping, make sure you use AmazonSmile. Go to www.smile.amazon.com, search for the Battered Women’s Justice Project, and select it as the organization you wish to support. With each purchase you make, 0.5% goes directly to BWJP. Another option to support BWJP is by donating on BWJP’s website. Contributions are tax-deductible as allowed by law and allow us to continue working to end gender-based violence.