Amici Curiae Brief Based on International Law is Filed in Domestic Violence Case
Tuesday, June 7, 2005 10:10 AM

In March 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the domestic violence case of Castle Rock v. Gonzalez. The case was filed by a mother claiming that the death of her three daughters resulted from the failure of police to enforce a restraining order against her husband. In 1999, despite the restraining order, the father of the three girls kidnapped them from their front yard. Ms. Gonzalez made many attempts to get her restraining order enforced by the police, but to no avail. Her husband killed the three girls that night, and subsequently was killed himself in a shootout with police.

International legal scholars and various women's civil rights and human rights organizations joined together to file an amici curiae brief with the Supreme Court. In their brief, they base the right for police protection on Customary International Law and International Human Rights Law, arguing that it is strong persuasive authority and should be used to interpret the U.S. Constitution, upon which Ms. Gonzalez has based her claim. The brief cites other cases in which the U.S. Supreme Court has indicated that International Law constitutes persuasive authority and proceeds by emphasizing that the right of women to protection from violence has become a Customary Norm of International Law. In addition, the brief points out the fact that the United States has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights which obligates member states to protect women and children from domestic violence. It further explains how other International Human Rights Law and various other multilateral treaties and regional organizations give women the right to be free from violence and cites decisions from around the world that protect women from domestic violence.

Numerous different groups in the United States and abroad are awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court, expected in July. The finding will greatly affect many women.

Compiled from: Rosenberg, Debra. "A Matter of Restraint." Newsweek. 19 March 2005.