Over a month ago, the California Secretary of State changed their Safe at Homes Program Web site for domestic violence victims and made it gender neutral. This was a direct result of one of their state's representatives attending CAFC's Domestic violence conference that was held in Sacramento last February 2008. (Read more about the conference here).
One of the most notable changes to the Safe at Homes Program Web site was on their home page, in the first paragraph, which read:
"As you may know, domestic violence crosses ethnic, racial, age, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, religious and socioeconomic lines. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that one million women are abused every year."
See PDF of the archived page here, or this at link:
The last sentence in the paragraph has been changed by eliminating the word "women" and now reads:
"Domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault cross ethnic, racial, age, gender, religious, national origin, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic lines to affect millions of Americans each year."
A Victory In The California Third District Court of Appeals
CAFC's efforts and help have really been producing a lot of substantial progress, including the area of domestic violence reforms and training. CAFC also assisted in the recent California appeals court case, Woods. v. Shewry; 3rd Dist. C056072, in which the court said; excluding men from domestic violence programs is unconstitutional. (Read the decision here).
Marc Angelucci, the attorney for the plaintiffs in the case had contacted Michael Robinson, Executive Director for CAFC several months before the case was filed in October of 2005. Angelucci wanted to discuss strategy and also the need for a plaintiff in the Third District Court jurisdiction because of that courts prior published opinion, Connerly v. State Personnel Bd. (2001) 92 Cal.App.4th 16, that strongly supported the legal arguments in the Woods case.
Robinson, who knows David Woods and his family -- the lead plaintiff in the case, arranged for Angelucci to make contact and meet with David. David Woods was the perfect plaintiff for this case, and Angelucci did an outstanding job in representing the case throughout.
In addition to providing the lead plaintiff in the Woods case, CAFC also assisted Angelucci with securing several of the key declarations from highly respected domestic violence experts and researchers. CAFC helped to personally serve some of the government agencies with the lawsuit complaint, and also got major TV and press media coverage on the case.
CAFC also papered the entire California Legislature in 2006 with copies of the lawsuit. This was at the same time that we waged a battle against AB 2051: Cohn; Domestic Violence, to reform Health and Safety Code 124250 which the court found unconstitutional. AB 2051 was an attempt to end run the impact of the pending class action lawsuit. The Woods case was originally filed in David's daughters' name, Meagan Black vs. California. (See more about our AB 2051 here and here).
CAFC also drafted the Amicus Curiae Brief for the experts with the National Family Violence Legislative Resource Center, for submission in the Woods case. Our first submission was denied because there was not an attorney's name on the brief representing the group. CAFC did, however, find a local family law attorney to go on the Amicus Brief, and we re-submitted it. However, due to a change in the rules of the court that went into effect on January 1, 2008 -- changing the filing deadline for Amicus Briefs from 30 days to 14 days after the final briefs had been filed by the plaintiffs -- we were two days late because we were unaware of the rules change, and the brief was denied. Nevertheless, we can't help but feel that the Amicus Brief did have an impact. (See Amicus Brief here).
David Woods acknowledges the role of CAFC in Woods v. Shewry ruling
David Woods recently sent an e-mail to the reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle who wrote about the Woods case and the court's ruling. In his e-mail, Woods wrote in part:
----- Original Message -----
From: "David Woods"
Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2008 4:43 PM
Subject: Woods v. CA, et al
Five years ago, there were no services to men. What (limited) services that are available to men currently came about directly as a result of Woods v. CA. Michael Robinson, of CAFC, spent years lobbying for those services and, after the lawsuit was filed, was able to make progress because he was able to point to the case, and use it as a sort of landmark for legislators and service administrators. He pointed out that there were no services for men, that the language that (specifically and exclusively) defined victims of domestic violence as women was probably unconstitutional, and that the state should start modifying its service policies before the case received a court date.
CAFC sincerely thanks David, his wife Ruth, and his daughter Meagan for all they did to help make the Woods case a success. We also want to thank them for hanging in for the duration. At times, emotions ran high for them as it would be for anyone. CAFC's only regret is that this victory and the other reforms CAFC has been working on were all too late to save the Woods family from the pain they suffered due to the denial of services and counseling that they all needed many years ago. We hope that this win in court and other reforms give them some sort of solace.
In closing, CAFC will soon be announcing an explosive update regarding some more major domestic violence reform that is currently in the works. If you were impressed with the change in language for the Safe at Homes Program Web site and our success in the Woods case, then you will be left breathless over what we promise will be a groundbreaking development. We cannot release any specifics yet, but we can say that it is a direct result of our historic domestic violence conference that we held in Sacramento last February 2008. Many representatives from various states' judiciary branches and criminal justice departments attended the conference. As a result, one state representative was so impressed with all of the evidence-based data and presentations, that they have completely redrafted their policy regarding domestic violence treatment programs, and the way domestic violence is viewed by all. We have seen the drafts for the reforms, and to say that they are a radical positive change is an understatement.
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