Family Law Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Case Law Development: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Finds Domestic Violence Police Response Case Admissible

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in the case of Jessica Gonzales v. United States has declared Jessica Lenahan's (formerly Gonzales) case admissible. In Castle Rock v. Gonzales, the United States Supreme Court held that Jessica did not have a property interest in prompt police response to enforce the provisions of her domestic violence restraining order.  The court thus reversed the 10th circuit's decision finding a constitutional violation when the police ignored repeated calls from Jessica that her estranged husband had violated a protective order and taken her children. 

Ms. Lenahan (Gonzales) has since then pursued this action before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  The Commission's recent decision says that Ms. Lenahan (Gonzales) exhausted all domestic remedies and indicates that countries in the Americas, including the United States, are responsible under the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man for protecting victims of domestic violence from private acts of violence. This is the first time that the Commission has ever made such a pronouncement.

In the merits phase of this process, the  Commission will decide whether the US and the Castle Rock Police Department/Colorado violated Ms. Lenahan (Gonzales') and her children's human rights.  Ms. Lenahan (Gonzales) has alleged that the United States has violated her rights to life, non-discrimination, family life/unity, due process, petition the government, and the rights of domestic violence victims and their children to special protections.
The Commission's admissibility decision is available online at the Commission's website;  Columbia Law Schools Human Rights website, or the ACLU website.

Ms. Gonzales' testimony before the Inter-American Commission in March 2007, can be viewed at the Organization of American State's website

(Last visited October 10, 2007 bgf)

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