Month: September 2020

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.

It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” -RBG

 

On September 18th, 2020, the country mourned the loss of cultural and political icon, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg was only the second woman to serve on America’s highest court. One of the nation’s strongest advocates for a variety of issues, from women’s rights to same-sex marriages to abortion rights, Justice Ginsburg was a titan for equality. Since her appointment to the court by former President Bill Clinton in 1993, Justice Ginsburg has written powerful decisions for landmark cases, while often writing equally poignant dissents.

Ginsburg played a significant role in the fight for gender equality long before her appointment to the Supreme Court. In 1972, she began working at the ACLU and helped create the Woman’s Rights Project. Ginsburg played an integral part in arguing cases such as General Electric Co. v. Gilbert (1976), which led to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and Frontiero v. Richardson (1973), which created a heightened level of scrutiny to be applied to gender discrimination cases.

Three years following her appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg wrote the decision in United States v. Virginia. This case struck down the Virginia Military Institute’s male-only admission policy through the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and is perhaps Justice Ginsburg’s most famous decision for the advancement of gender equality.

One of her most scathing dissents came in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (2007), in which a Goodyear employee sued the company, alleging that she was receiving a lower wage because of her gender. Offering a harsh rebuke of the court on an all-male 5-4 split, Justice Ginsburg showed powerful support for the end of the gender pay gap. Justice Ginsburg penned an equally compelling dissent in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (2015). In another 5-4 split, the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot require certain for-profit corporations to pay for contraceptives for their employees. Justice Ginsburg’s dissent outlines the consequences of woman being discriminated against because they have different religious views than their employer.

Ginsburg was, importantly, part of a 5-4 majority in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in a huge victory for the LGBTQ+ community. “We have changed our idea about marriage,” Ginsberg said during oral arguments. “Marriage today is not what it was under the common law tradition, under the civil law tradition.”

While her passing is devastating, it comes just two months before one of the most contested presidential elections in history. The vacancy on the Supreme Court will present a deeply polarizing issue, providing Republicans a chance to have six conservative Justices on the court. President Trump has already shown his eagerness to replace Justice Ginsburg with a more conservative Justice, which would tilt the ideological balance of the court for years to come. Trump has already had the opportunity to install two conservative judges to the court.

Much is at stake with the nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice, including reproductive rights, voting rights, criminal justice reform, immigration, and healthcare. In any event, the legal community and beyond are mourning the loss of an incredible jurist, a powerful leader in the fight for gender equality, and an inspiration to many.

 

 

As the ongoing pandemic rages across the world, people in every state in the United States are required, or have been required, to stay home as much as possible to slow the spread of the deadly Coronavirus. Being confined in the home has posed a litany of added stressors, including financial problems and mental health deterioration’s. 

The additional problems and sources of stress, as well as the nature of being home far more than people are used to, have contributed to a subsequent rise in domestic violence (DV). Police have seen varying degrees of increases in DV calls across the nation, some as high as 20%. This trend is no different in the DMV. DC law enforcement has spoken about the fear of a rise in DV during the lockdown since March, and national trends seem to affirm that concern. 

DC Domestic Violence Laws

The District of Columbia Criminal Code details what would constitute an arrest for DV as follows:Domestic violence - DC

“A law enforcement officer shall arrest a person if the law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that the person: committed an intrafamily offense that resulted in physical injury, including physical pain or illness, regardless of whether or not the intrafamily offense was committed in the presence of the law enforcement officer”. 

The term “intrafamily” refers to a domestic partner, which can be defined as “a spouse, lover, sibling, parent, child, or roommate”. The aforementioned definition of DV in DC would constitute simple assault, which is defined as “a misdemeanor offense involving either the threat of force or the actual use of force”. 

           

Standard of Proof for DV Simple Assault

 As with any criminal case, the government must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In the case of a DV simple assault case, the government must prove the following three elements:

  1. Either that the defendant intended to use force or violence against the other person or that he/she intended to put that person in fear of immediate injury.
  2. That the defendant’s actions were intentional and not the result of a mistake or accident.
  3. That at the time of the alleged incident, the defendant had the “apparent ability” to injure the other person.

Potential Punishments if Convicted

The maximum penalties for sentences for DV cases are the same as other simple assault cases, 180 days in jail and/or $1000 fine. However, judges typically sentence DV cases harsher due to their proclivity to reoccur. As with other cases, the Court will view a variety of factors when determining sentencing. Notably, however, many diversion options typically available to first-time offenders are not available in DV cases. 

There may be an option of a Deferred Sentencing Agreement (DSA) which would entail the defendant entering a guilty plea, and then being given a particular amount of time to complete a set of requirements, which may include anger management training, mental health evaluations, or completion of a Domestic Violence Intervention Program. 

Contact our Attorneys Today

 If you have questions about DC’s domestic violence laws or require legal representation, reach out to Bruckheim & Patel to speak with attorney Sweta Patel or Kelsey Penna at 202-930-3464.  

Are accountability and transparency the solution? Or is policing as we know it an outdated approach to public safety?

On Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020, Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers arrived at the 200 Block of Orange St SE in response to an Instagram live stream of multiple individuals in a vehicle brandishing firearms.

One of the individuals in the vehicle was 18-year-old Deon Kay, a Black male who ran away from the car when the officers arrived on scene. When Officer Alexander Alvarez saw that Mr. Kay had a gun in his hand, Alvarez immediately shot Mr. Kay in the chest as Kay threw his firearm away from himself into a grass field. Deon Kay was soon transported to the hospital, where he later died as a result of the shooting.

In June earlier this year, the D.C. Council passed an emergency police-reform bill that requires the MPD to release the body-worn camera footage of officers involved in fatal shootings within five days of the event. The bill also requires MPD to make public the names of the officers specifically involved. Within this bill, the victims’ families can choose whether or not the videos should be made public.

Due to this new policy, two videos of the incident have been released. The first version, which lasts a little more than four minutes, begins with a narration, giving details as to where and why the police were responding to the scene. Then, Officer Alvarez’s body-worn camera footage shows the shooting and follows Alvarez as he looks for the firearm thrown by Kay immediately after. The video concludes with a slow-motion playback of the shooting, which more clearly shows Mr. Kay brandishing a firearm before he is shot. The second video released by MPD is unedited and about 11 minutes long. It is the full body-worn camera footage of Officer Alexander Alvarez.

While the emergency police-reform bill promotes accountability and transparency among law enforcement agencies, it by no means solves policing issues in America. The video shows Deon Kay brandishing a firearm before Officer Alvarez fatally shots him. Still, critics ask why Kay had to die instead of attempting to de-escalate the situation.

Amid the strong and ever-growing Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the death of Deon Kay drew public outrage. A BLM organizer, April Goggans responded to the event saying, “This is the systematic way that MPD operates and polices black bodies. They see him; they jump out, they barely stop the car and run after him.”

The American Civil Liberties Union went public to criticize the officer’s quickness to shooting Kay instead of making any attempt to de-escalate the situation before fatally shooting him. The executive director of the ACLU’s District of Columbia branch, Monica Hopkins, said,

“The D.C. police department’s approach to gun recovery has been dangerous and ineffective for years. The tragic shooting and death of 18-year-old Deon Kay is the logical conclusion of a policy that not only meets violence with violence but actually escalates and incites it — especially in our Black communities.”

At-large Councilmember David Grosso went to Twitter to say, “The police killing of #DeonKay is a tragedy, and my heart is with his family and loved ones. The community and public deserve answers and accountability on MPD’s actions in this incident. His death is a failure of our outdated approach to community safety.”

It is time for the MPD to consider a new approach to keeping communities safe instead of making the people of the communities they police feel unsafe. While the emergency police-reform bill is an attempt, it is a mere band-aid that cannot truly heal a broken and outdated system.

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