Miami Law's International Law Lecture Series will feature Jessica Lenahan (formerly Gonzales) and Miami Law Professor Caroline Bettinger-Lopez, Director of the Human Rights Clinic, who will discuss "Domestic Violence as a Human Rights Violation: A Survivor's Journey" on Tuesday, February 1st.
The Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law, the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, and the American Civil Liberties Union represent Jessica Lenahan (formerly Gonzales) in Jessica Gonzales v. United States of America, a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
In 1999, Lenahan's daughters were abducted by her estranged husband and killed after the Castle Rock, Colorado police repeatedly refused to enforce her domestic violence restraining order against him.
Lenahan brought Fourteenth Amendment due process claims against Castle Rock. In 2005, in Town of Castle Rock v. Jessica Gonzales, the Supreme Court found that the police had no constitutional duty to enforce her restraining order, thereby leaving her without a remedy.
Lenahan subsequently filed a complaint against the United States before the Inter-American Commission, claiming human rights violations by the local police for failing to protect her and her children, and human rights violations by the U.S. courts, which failed to provide her with a remedy.
The Inter-American Commission has granted two hearings in Jessica Gonzales v. United States, in 2007 and 2008. In both, Jessica Lenahan testified – an opportunity that was denied to her in U.S. courts. Eight amicus briefs were submitted in support of Ms. Lenahan by over 90 individuals and organizations, and Professor Jeffrey Fagan submitted an expert report about the appropriate standards for police response to domestic violence in the U.S. In 2007, the Commission declared in a landmark admissibility decision that it had competence to examine Ms. Lenahan's human rights claims. A final decision on the merits is expected in early 2011.
Jessica Gonzales v. United States marks the first time the Commission has been asked to consider the nature and extent of the U.S. Government's affirmative obligations to protect individuals from private acts of discriminatory violence.
The lecture will take place at the School of Law's Reading Room – D201 from 12:30-1:50 p.m. Lunch will be provided.