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March 8, 2005

Claire Duggan: (202) 994-0616;
Matt Nehmer: (202) 994-6467;


WASHINGTON - The George Washington University Law School's Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP) and the law firm of McDermott, Will & Emery have filed an amicus brief in the Castle Rock v. Gonzales case to go before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 21. The case will resolve whether the state of Colorado failed to provide adequate due process to a victim of domestic violence whose three children were murdered by her estranged husband after she obtained a restraining order against him. It is the first time the high court will hear a case that deals directly with domestic violence issues.

"Our hope is that the amicus brief and the others filed on behalf of the victims will educate the Supreme Court about the realities of domestic violence and the police," said Joan Meier, GW professor of clinical law and founder of DV LEAP, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing appellate and amicus representation in cases of legal importance. "This case is incredibly important for domestic violence victims and it will devastate victims' ability to be protected from violence if the court reverses the 10th Circuit decision holding that due process was indeed violated."

The brief was primarily authored by Richard Smith, a partner at the law firm of McDermott, Will & Emery, and co-authored by Meier. It was prepared with McDermott, Will & Emery colleagues Frannie Hochberg and Richard Sloane as part of the firm's award-winning pro bono program.

"The murder of Ms. Gonzales's young children at the hands of their father is tragic," Smith said. "The Castle Rock police department allegedly ignored Ms. Gonzales's repeated requests for help and the time has come for that kind of response to domestic violence to stop."

At the core of the Gonzales case is whether the 14th Amendment requires a minimal amount of procedural due process before the police decide to ignore a state statute mandating enforcement of protection orders. DV LEAP's brief advocates on behalf of five police organizations (including the National Black Police Organization and Women in Federal Law Enforcement), which stand with the victim in arguing that the Castle Rock Police Department's conduct fell below an acceptable floor of competent practice and that the department violated her constitutional rights under the Due Process Clause when the police failed to enforce a court order designed to protect the woman and her children from her ex-husband.

The oral argument for Castle Rock v. Gonzales is scheduled for March 21. GW Law School will host a panel discussion later that same day. Time and location TBA.

Accredited by the American Bar Association and a charter member of the Association of American Law Schools, the GW Law School enrolls approximately 1,750 students each year.

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