Bruno v. McGuire

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  • Fairness in the Courts
  • Violence Against Women and Girls
  • Joined Amicus Brief
1979

Concerning the NYC Police Department’s practice of refusing to arrest men who beat their wives and family court clerks refusing to allow battered women to seek Orders of Protection against their husbands.

Background of the Case

The Center for Constitutional Rights, MFY Legal Services, Inc., the Legal Aid Society’s Civil Division, and Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation B sued the New York City Police Department’s policy and practice of refusing to arrest men who perpetuate domestic violence against their wives, and instead promoting reconcilliation or engaging in victim blaming of women for provoking their partners. The case also alleged that Family Court clerks regularly refused to allow victims of domestic violence to file petitions to seek Orders of Protection against their husbands.

The case settled when the New York City Police Department (NYPD) agreed to change its policy, and agreed to arrest men who commit felonius assaults or who violate an Order of Protection. Many police departments nationwide agreed to make similar changes after facing similar cases modeled after this lawsuit.

Summary of the Brief

The part of the lawsuit directed against the employees in Family Court was dismissed by a divided vote of the intermediate appellate court. The case was appealed to the New York Court of Appeals. Legal Momentum joined an amicus briefs along with 12 local and national organizations who work on domestic violence issues. The brief argued that domestic violence victims were deprived of judicial protection by the systematic denial of access to the courts due to the actions of Family Court employees to prevent women from seeking Orders of Protections against abusive partners, thereby subjecting victims to grace and irreparable harm. The brief concluded that the plaintiffs should have an opportunity to demonstate this at trial.

Decision

The appeal was dismissed as moot on July 20, 1978.