The Violence Against Women Act: Twenty Years Later

By: Mallory McGee

On September 13, 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed and this past Saturday marked twenty years since the groundbreaking legislation took the first step in acknowledging and combating the epidemic of violence against women. At the time the law was passed, Vice President Joe Biden was a U.S. Senator, and he helped advocate for the legislation and push it along to President Clinton.

The Act recognized the need for stronger stalking laws, provided legal remedies for battered immigrants, and forced states to honor orders of protection issued by other states.  Funds were allocated for shelters, victim counseling, prevention education, and to assist law enforcement in properly handling domestic violence cases to lead to successful prosecutions and convictions. These programs are known as STOP programs – “Services, Training, Officers, and Prosecutors.”

Following VAWA, in 1995, the Office on Violence Against Women was created to work within the Department of Justice to process grants and to handle any legal and policy changes surrounding violence against women. In 1996, the National Domestic Violence Hotline began providing victims of abuse with an outlet to provide support and advice, especially in situations that may be particularly volatile.

VAWA was reauthorized for the first time in 2000 and again in 2005. These legislations reinforced all of the original provisions of 1994 and expanded upon them. For example, the term “dating violence” was included along with “domestic violence” and “sexual assault” to now encompass violence by dating partners. The Sexual Assault Services Program, a federally funded program for services for victims of sexual assault was created. Housing services would be provided to victims of domestic violence to avoid the women and children becoming homeless.

In 2013, VAWA was reauthorized for the third time amidst some criticism from Republican representatives. This reauthorization includes LGBT victims of violence and requires that they have access to all the programs and resources to be protected against violence and to cope with the trauma.… Continue reading


Spotlight: Professor Carlin Meyer

By: Lori Anne Vergara

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Professor Carlin Meyer has a renowned reputation for her professional and academic achievements; a simple Google search will return pages of information related to her legal career and involvement with New York Law School. However, there is so much more to be said about her amazing spirit and life, which cannot be gleaned from those sources.  During a recent interview with the editors of JustFamilies.org, Professor Meyer spoke candidly about her educational experiences and personal life. When we sat down for our interview, Professor Meyer had already begun the process of packing her belongings from her office in the Abbey Institute area. There were still books on the shelves, though, and she asked each of us to take one or two. As we chose books, she peered over and gave us her brief thoughts on the authors and their work. I was amazed at how much she could remember about each of the books and it made me realize just how passionate she is about discussing legal concepts and ideas.

Recently, Professor Meyer stepped down from her role as director of the Diane Abbey Law Center For Children and Families, recently renamed the Abbey Institute as part of the new Impact Center for Public Interest Law.  She is becoming emeritus in January 2015. Though I was not lucky enough to have her as a professor, I am still saddened to see her set out on the retirement track. I first met Professor Meyer at the New York Law School Gala last fall. We were seated next to one another, so we talked over dinner, and then we danced the night away to Motown classics, played by the live band. I remember thinking then that she was remarkably down to earth. During our meeting, I learned that she has dedicated almost 27 years of her career in academia to New York Law School.… Continue reading


Weekly Round-up September 15th, 2014

Parents May Soon Find it Easier to Obtain College Loans Under New Plan:

  • In 2011, it became increasingly difficult to obtain a Parent Plus loan.  This has especially affected many poor families, who find it difficult for their children to attend undergrad and graduate school without loans.
  • For a parent with negative credit history, it is much more difficult to secure funding for their child to continue their education.
  • The Obama Administration has proposed a revision with respect to the current Parent Plus loan screening process. If the proposed plan goes into effect, when doing its standard credit check, instead of going back five years, the Education Department will only go back two years. Additionally, if there is a debt below $2,085, it will not be considered as a reason to reject a loan application. Under the current policy, delinquencies of any amount can be a bar to gaining access to student loans. The Administration projects that this change in policy will lead to at least an additional 370,000 individuals being approved for loans.
  • Proponents of this policy change see it as a way to increase low-income students enrollment in higher education. Currently, Stafford Loans, which are an option for undergraduate students are capped at $57,000 for life. Many times, this is not enough to meet education costs, and it is even more difficult to obtain private loans if a parent has negative credit history.
  • Critics are concerned that borrowing large sums of money will lock individuals into repayment for a lifetime, and they have compared it to the housing market crash that occurred when banks were approving mortgages that were unrealistically high compared to a person’s income. They also point to the fact that student debt has doubled since 2007, and it is now $1.1 trillion.
  • The Obama Administration’s goal is to create a policy that will increase college and graduate school enrollment rates amongst poor families without burdening them with over borrowing or excessive tuitions.
  • Continue reading


Weekly Round-Up September 8th, 2014

Five-Borough, Ten-year plan to Create More Affordable Housing:

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio recently released a Five-Borough, Ten-year plan, which aims at creating or preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing. Now, affordable housing units could become a mandatory part of any new real estate development project that requires a zoning change or City Planning Commission approval. This new mandate would require a change in the zoning laws of New York City.
  • In a statement made on Friday, September 5 at a breakfast at the Center for New York City Law at New York Law School, Carl Weisbrod, chairman of the City Planning Commission, said that developers will not be able to “build one unit unless [they] build [their] share of affordable housing.” He added, “There will be a minimum that the developer has to do without subsidy.”
  • The requirements would apply to new development projects requiring zoning changes, and apartment building projects of 6 or more stories requiring City Planning Commission approval.
  • The Mayor’s mission is to provide economic stability to families of varying incomes and to ensure that everyone has a “safe” and “decent” home. He would also like to preserve affordable housing in all communities, and help families to hold onto rent-regulated apartments, and allow seniors to continue living in neighborhoods where the rents are becoming too costly for them to afford.
  • To read more about the mission, goals, and implementation of the new plan, click here and here. (New York Times).  To see a video of the breakfast, click here.  (CityLand)

Mobile Child Support Program:

  • In 2009, Kai Patterson founded Project Child Support to assist custodial parents in obtaining child support owed to them and non-custodial parents in avoiding accumulating more child support debt. Last week, Project Child Support unveiled its newest form of assistance: the mobile child support van.
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Weekly Round-Up September 2nd, 2014

Pilot Program to Equip NYPD Officers with Body Cameras:

  • In recent months, the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have mounted pressure on officials to consider measures that would cultivate a more positive dynamic between police officers and civilians.  One proposal has been to require police officers to wear body cameras.  This would help to provide evidence of what was going on before, during, and after any kind of interaction between police and members of the community.
  • City Public Advocate Letitia James proposed a pilot program aimed at this cause.   She proposed that officers in high-crime precincts should be equipped with a body camera.  The cameras would be about the size of a pager and they would cost between $400 and $900 each. Equipping each officer on patrol with a camera would cost around $32 million. Currently, the city spends roughly $152 million a year on settlements related to police misconduct.  In places like New Orleans and Missouri, where the body cameras are used by police, there has been a decline in civil law suits brought against police for issues regarding misconduct.
  • Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said that a pilot program would begin with about 50 officers.  The pilot program will cost approximately $5 million.
  • District Judge Shira Schiendlin had ordered the NYPD to start a similar program in 2012.  Her idea was to equip officers in the boroughs with the highest incidents of stop-and-frisk rates with a camera.
  • The current measure announced by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton will serve 2 purposes.   It will serve as a check on the behavior of police officers and it will also serve as a safeguard for officers, because it can help to exonerate them when they are falsely accused of misconduct.
  • The cameras have also helped to dismiss cases against civilians who were falsely accused in some way by police.
  • Continue reading