Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Domestic Violence as Human Rights Violation Alleged

In a matter described as "the first individual complaint brought by a victim of domestic violence against the United States for human rights violations," the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held a hearing on March 2, 2007 in the case of Jessica Gonzales v. United States.  The case, brought by the unsuccessful appellee in Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005), was summarized in a public announcement issued prior to the hearing by one of Gonzales' lawyers, Caroline Bettinger-Lopez of Columbia Law School:

In June 1999, Jessica Gonzales' estranged husband abducted her three daughters, in violation of a domestic violence restraining order. Ms. Gonzales called and met with the police repeatedly to report the abduction and restraining order violation. Unfortunately, her calls went unheeded.  Ten hours after her first call to the police, Ms. Gonzales' estranged husband arrived at the police station and opened fire. The police immediately shot and killed Mr. Gonzales, and then discovered the murdered bodies of the Gonzales children – Leslie, 7, Katheryn, 8, and Rebecca, 10 – in the back of his pickup truck.  Ms. Gonzales filed a lawsuit against the police, but in June 2005, the Supreme Court found that she had no constitutional right to police enforcement of her restraining order.  In December 2005, Ms. Gonzales filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, alleging that the police’s actions and the Supreme Court’s decision violated her human rights.
A webcast of the March 2, 2007 hearing is available at (video) or (audio).  Documents related to Ms. Gonzales' case before the Inter-American Commission can be found at: and
Ms. Gonzales is represented by the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Human Rights Program (HRP) and Women’s Rights Project (WRP).
Thanks to Professor Matthew Fraidin for this post.  (BGF)

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