Should Rapists Have Parental Rights? Alabama Thinks So

By Kelly Barrett

In Alabama, a survivor of rape can be forced to co-parent with their rapist. Further exacerbating the problem of rapist parents are abortion bans passed in several states in recent years. Alabama’s 2019 abortion ban, which was preliminarily enjoined by a federal court as applied to pre-viability abortions, mixes with Alabama’s absence of laws allowing for termination of parental rights based on rape to create a toxic environment for rape survivors. Women should be free to choose to terminate their pregnancies, and rape survivors should not be forced to have their children and potentially be forced to enter into a co-parenting relationship with their rapist.

Alabama’s abortion ban legislation does not allow for abortions at any stage of pregnancy, except in limited health related circumstances that do not include rape or incest.  Thus forcing a woman to have a child if she does not act quickly after conception to end her pregnancy or seek a risky illegal abortion (as noted here in amicus briefs in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt and June Medical Services v. Gee, many women may be at risk for health complications or death if they pursue unregulated illegal abortions). Further as far as risks to women’s health, childbirth is a greater risk than an abortion.

Thirty-two states allow for termination of parental rights based on if the rapist was convicted of sexual assault against the mother. Twenty states have legislation limiting parental rights of rapists (with some overlap). However, in contrast with some states that allow for termination of parental rights based on any conviction for rape or sexual assault (including Kansas and Massachusetts), or that do not require a conviction at all (Alaska and Colorado for example), Alabama requires a conviction for rape in the first degree, sodomy in the first degree or incest in order for parental rights to be terminated for this reason.… <Read More>


The Real Cost of Student Debt: Why New York State Should Allow Common Law Marriages

By Raelynn Leggio

As law students we are experiencing first hand the crushing weight of debt in order to obtain our degrees. In 2012 the average law student had incurred approximately $140,616 of debt. This figure doesn’t include undergraduate debt, and millennials are truly feeling the pressure as tuition for undergraduate and graduate programs only continues to increase.

So what does that have to do with marriage?

Although many millenials face significant debt burdens, the cost of a formal wedding continues to increase. Wedding spending is at an all time high in the U.S., with a 2015 survey from The Knot revealing that couples shell out an average of $32,641 for their big day; that’s about the same price as the average tuition at a private undergraduate university. If you want your big day to be in Manhattan, you could be spending about $82,299. Every reception category from the venue price, to custom guest entertainment, to wine and liquor tastings has increased, while the lists of invitees have gone down to an average of 139 guests.

But that is the reality we face today. The cost of getting married is just added to the mountain of debt that students owe. Student debt has become the new normal and so is the delay of experiencing many life milestones. Marriage, buying a home, and purchasing a car are the top three things that are being delayed by the recent graduate, according to the Consumerist, with 56% of the millennial age bracket stating that their debt has turned them away from investing or starting a family.… <Read More>


The Every Student Succeeds Act

By: Jarienn James

On December 10, 2015, a bipartisan bill revising the National Education Law was signed into law by President Obama. Using twelve pens, President Obama repealed the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The ESSA prepares children for college and affirms the government’s commitment to ensuring each child receives quality education. President Obama remarked NCLB had the right goals such as:

high standards, accountability and closing the achievement gap… [However,] it didn’t always consider the specific needs of each community. It led to too much testing during classroom time. It often forced schools and school districts into cookie-cutter reforms that didn’t always produce the kinds of results that we wanted to see.

This war on education began in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). President Johnson believed that “full educational opportunity” should be “our first national goal.” This civil rights law would expire every three to five years, leaving Congress to reauthorize it. In 2001, the Government, in response to the significantly low achievement standards of the poor and the minority students created the NCLB.

Purpose of the Acts

The purpose of the NCLB was “…to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.” The NCLB delved further and listed twelve steps that States may use to achieve its goal.… <Read More>


Redefining the Family Offense of Disorderly Conduct

by Mallory McGee

CCC memo

In Cassie v. Cassie, a recent decision from the Second Department of the Supreme Court Appellate Division, the Court decided that the petitioner did not meet the required burden to establish the family offense of disorderly conduct, and directed that an order of protection be reversed. Consistent with the First and Fourth Departments, the Court held that to establish the family offense of disorderly conduct, Family Court Act §812 (1), the petitioner is required to show that the respondent “intended to cause, or recklessly created the risk of, causing public inconvenience, or harm,” in accordance with Penal Law §240.20.  The Courts’ rulings run counter to the legislative history and the intent behind Family Court Act §812 and have the potential to adversely affect future domestic violence victims.

The facts of this case, like most domestic relations matters, are in dispute. There was an argument between the petitioner and the respondent followed by a somewhat violent altercation near the stairwell of their home while their two daughters were upstairs and did not witness anything. The Court found that this incident did not cause any public ramifications or create the risk thereof. However, the inherent nature of family offenses requires a more personal, case-by-case analysis.

I agree with the Court in saying that the family offense of disorderly conduct can be unintentionally merged with the family offense of harassment if courts are not careful. However, I do not think that the solution to this issue is forcing proof of an intention to cause public ramifications, which will almost never be possible because the conduct in family offenses is most often intended for a specific party, not the public.… <Read More>