Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project

Following are some of our most recent cases under the All States Litigation Project.


EB v. GM

Appellate Court of the State of Connecticut - 2016

This case involves an abuse survivor's tort action against her husband for his assault and battery which inflicted extensive and permanent physical injuries.  Despite the jury's finding that the husband committed intentional battery and assault, the survivor collected no damages because the jury also accepted his defenses that his assault was necessary because (1)  she was trespassing and (2) he was "defending others" (visitors in the house). DV LEAP's and Gibson Dunn's brief on behalf of the wife argued that as a matter of law, the wife could not have been "trespassing" on marital property. The brief also argued  that the "defense of others"  was invalid because the evidence did not support the need for any "defense" and the force he used was excessive and unnecessary to stop any perceived threat. The case is pending. 


Ms. J v. Mr. J 

Washington Court of Appeals - 2016

In this case the trial court refused to issue a full-term protection order for a survivor who had suffered a long history of domestic violence by her husband. Instead, the court issued a short-term protection order for 65 days to keep things "status quo" and directed the parties to seek relief in a divorce proceeding that the abuser had initiated.  DV LEAP, along with pro bono law firms K & L Gates and Baker McKenzie filed an amicus brief arguing that short-term protection orders are unsafe, disempowering to survivors, contrary to the national trend toward to increase the duration of protection orders, and undermine the constitutional rights to parent one’s children and to access to justice. The appellate court reversed, holding that the trial court’s ruling contradicted WA’s protection order statute. The appellate court’s opinion also recognized (1) the dangers victims experience when they have to come to court multiple times to face their abusers and (2) that denying victims full hearings is not necessary or appropriate.


ES v. JR

Appellate Court of Illinois, First Judicial District - 2015

This case involves the critically important issue of whether trial courts in IL may replace a  protection order with a "restraining" order W, despite the the IL Domestic Violence Act's mandate to issue a protection order if the abuse is proven.  After the DV survivor ended her relationship with the abuser he embarked on an escalated campaign of psychological and physical abuse, including shoving her head against a door and throwing objects at their family television. The judge found the abuse allegations credible, yet denied her an order of protection. Instead, he ordered a "restraining order to be put in place to manage the relationship between mom and dad" and stated that he was "hopeful that in the future there could be a friendship [between ES and JR]."  JR continued to abuse ES, in violation of the restraining order, which, because it was not a protection order, was not subject to the prompt enforcement mechanisms reserved for domestic violence protection orders.

DV LEAP and co-counsel Morgan, Lewis Bockius LLP represented several Amici, including DV organizations, legal services organizations and Chicago law school clinics. DV LEAP's Amicus brief argues that the trial court lacked the discretionary authority to deny ES a plenary order of protection and enter a restraining order instead. The amicus brief also explains that protection orders are (1) specifically designed to combat the unique danger and complexity of domestic violence and (2) enforceable by immediate arrest, in contrast to restraining orders which lack all of these attributes. The case is pending. 


BT v. Chicago Housing Authority 

Appellate Court of Illinois - 2015

The issue in this case was whether the Chicago Housing Authority’s decision to terminate a survivor’s participation in its Chicago Housing Voucher Choice program violated the Violence Against Women Act.  In this case, the survivor tenant had a child with her abuser and allowed the abuser to visit the child at her home because he would become violent if she did not. After an anonymous tip, the abuser was arrested at the survivor’s home when she was not there and the police found an AK-47 in the back seat of his car. The survivor was accused of violations re: criminal activity of a “guest” and an unauthorized occupant.  The hearing officer failed to apply VAWA protections for DV survivors.  DV LEAP’s amicus brief (partnering with the Shriver Institute) argues that CHA’s decision to terminate the survivor’s Housing Choice Section 8 Voucher violates the purpose and intent of VAWA, the federal Fair Housing Act, and the sound body of literature on domestic violence dynamics. The amicus brief also demonstrates how the abuser was not a “guest” of the survivor under law, because she had no control over – and therefore did not consent to- his actions. The case has settled, in part, due to the strength of our amicus brief. 


L. v. L.

Washington Court of Appeals – 2014

In this case the trial court refused to issue a full-term protection order and issued one for 57 days instead, in order to force the survivor to pursue divorce and custody in the domestic relations court.  DV LEAP was asked to provide a national amicus brief to complement two state amicus briefs.  We argued that short-term POs are unsafe, dis-empowering to survivors, and undermine the constitutional rights to parent one’s children and to access to justice.  The case is pending.  


Ms. C v. Mr. G 

Maryland Court of Special Appeals – 2014

DV LEAP assisted this mother in finding pro bono representation for her appeal, as well as working with a different law firm on an amicus brief in support.  The case concerns a damages award given to an abuser who sued the victim for “malicious prosecution” and other torts, alleging that her actions to obtain legal protection for herself and her child were malicious and illegitimate.  The Court excluded her explanations about why she feared him and also adopted prior negative findings by a custody judge which ignored third party corroboration for her claims and her fears.  DV LEAP’s amicus brief argues that the record makes clear the appellee was an adjudicated abuser and that her protective actions were presumptively legitimate, and that the custody court fit a pattern among family courts of demonizing mothers who allege a father is dangerous – which is not evidence-based. 



Virginia v. Felecia Amos 

Virginia Supreme Court- 2013

In this case, the mother, whose ex-husband was abusive, was wrongfully jailed without due process, including any opportunity to object, to present evidence, or explain - by a trial judge who believed (erroneously) that she had perjured herself when she reported and testified to his harassment as a violation of his conditions of probation.  While the VA Court of Appeals reversed, the VA Supreme Court granted review.  DV LEAP's Amicus brief amplifies on the court's misuse of summary contempt in this case, and explains both the frequency with which abusers fabricate evidence against their victims, and how the tape recording he used in this case could easily have been altered.  It also argues that this decision, if upheld, would set a dangerous precedent, which could subject future abuse survivors to untenable risks when they return to either criminal or civil court for violations of court orders.

 Anthony v. Garrity 

Maryland Court of Special Appeals - 2013, 2009

This appeal arose from a malicious prosecution case filed by perpetrator of domestic violence against his victim’s daughter after he was prosecuted unsuccessfully by the Maryland State Attorney’s for a protection order violation, which the then 18-year old daughter reported to the police. DV LEAP filed an amicus brief on behalf of several MD domestic violence organizations arguing that if victims and witnesses become subject to malicious prosecution lawsuits simply by calling (in good faith) the police to enforce their protection orders, they will be chilled from enforcing these orders. Further, the amicus brief argued that upholding the malicious prosecution judgment invites abusers to engage in litigation abuse. Unfortunately, the Court of Special Appeals upheld the malicious prosecution judgment.  The case was petitioned to the state’s highest court (COA); DV LEAP filed a second amicus brief in support of review; and a third amicus brief on the merits.  To our dismay, the COA dismissed the appeal altogether (on grounds the issue had not been preserved at trial) after a vigorous oral argument.  


Ms. H v. Mr. H 

California Court of Appeals - 2012

This appeal challenged a California court’s ruling permitting the father to sue the mother for the tort of malicious prosecution - after she had called 911, an arrest was made and charges filed over the objection of the victim, but the charges were ultimately dropped by the State.  DV LEAP’s amicus brief argued that permitting malicious prosecution litigation against alleged abuse victims is an open invitation to sue their victims whenever they call for help.  The brief urged the Court to explicitly extend the ban on malicious prosecution claims in family litigation to domestic violence 911 calls and reports to the police.  The Appellate Division did not allow the brief, which was widely praised in the domestic violence community, to be filed.  Unfortunately the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court.


Ms. X v. Mr. Y 

Virginia Court of Appeals - 2011

This appeal challenged a Virginia court’s order requiring a protective mother to pay over $10,000 in attorney’s fees for seeking a protection order to protect her young daughter from her father’s abuse. This case was especially troubling because of the trial judge’s lack of legal analysis in imposing the attorney’s fees award upon the victim, the chilling effects these kinds of decisions can have on victims seeking to protect their children, and the fact that a different trial court had originally granted her a protection order on behalf of her daughter against the father. Her appellate brief argued that the trial court failed to articulate a factual basis regarding the reasonableness of the conduct of the parties, it erred in failing to comply with the attorney’s fees statute, and that imposing fees on a protection order applicant is contrary to the purpose of VA’s protection order statute.  


K v. P 

Maryland court of Appeals - 2011

This appeal challenged a Maryland court’s vacating of a 10-day temporary protective order which had been issued on behalf of a young child based on evidence she was being abused by her father.  The court vacated this order at the father’s request, without the victim present, and dismissed the pending long term protective order proceeding, based on the accused’s counter-accusations against the victim and an incomplete investigation/evaluation by the child welfare agency, which perceived the protective mother as unstable.  DV LEAP filed an amicus brief arguing that the protective order statutory scheme which carefully balances the rights of the accused abuser and the alleged victim, is irreparably undermined if accused abusers can return to court before the contested hearing and throw out a duly issued TPO.  The state Supreme Court granted review, but after oral argument dismissed the certiorari, thereby leaving the decision standing, without any decision.  


W v. W 

Colorado Court of Appeals - 2011

This appeal challenged a Colorado court’s transfer of custody of a young daughter from her mother to her father, who had committed domestic violence against her mother, and also engaged in troubling conduct with another child.  DV LEAP’s brief on behalf of the mother argued that the lawyer appointed as the “Child’s Factual Investigator” violated the statute by providing legal opinions and recommendations, which were adopted verbatim by the court.  The court of appeals reversed, but on different grounds.  On remand, custody unfortunately remained with the father.  

 In re Muhammad v. Gilbert 

Washington Supreme Court - 2005

This case, in which DV LEAP filed an amicus brief, concerned a trial court's penalizing a woman for obtaining a protection order by denying her a share of the marital property at divorce. The divorce judge denied the woman any share of the husband’s pension (marital property) on the ground that her protection order caused him to lose his job as a police officer and left him unemployed. The state Supreme Court correctly held that an order of protection could not be treated as grounds for denying a wife a share of the marital property.


Triggs v. State

Maryland Supreme Court - 2003

This case, in which DV LEAP filed an amicus brief, concerned the severity of penalties available to an egregious violator of a protection order. The defendant here committed numerous violations of a protective order by repeatedly calling and threatening the victim while holding the children as hostages. The court found that the defendant properly received 18 consecutive sentences for his violations as opposed to merging them into one violation.  


See also Custody & Abuse Project cases.