“Battered Woman Syndrome” to Become Recognized Defense to Homicide? The Door May Have Opened.

Could a recent acquittal of Barbara Sheehan from Queens have opened the door for deeming “battered woman’s syndrome” a  defense to homicide charge? Time will show.

Barbara Sheehan shot her husband, retired NYPD officer, Raymond Sheehan, 11 times in their home in Howard Beach in February 2008. Although she used two guns, she claimed that she fired in self-defense after he had first threatened her life with one of the guns. Mrs. Sheehan was acquitted of murder, but convicted of gun possession and sentenced to 5 years of jail. Click here for a complete NY Times article.

Barbara Sheehan claimed self-defense based on “battered woman’s syndrome” which she allegedly developed during years of abuse by her husband.… <Read More>

Post-Baby M. era – surrogacy still beyond reach for many

In 1988, the New Jersey Supreme Court handed down one of the first decisions in the country concerning surrogacy contracts. The In re Baby M. (537 A.2d 1227, 109 N.J. 396) case held the surrogacy contract between Mary Beth Whitehead and William Stern was illegal and unenforceable as against public policy. Whitehead initially entered into a contract to conceive and bear a child (by artificial insemination) with Stern, and then relinquish her maternal rights in order for the child to be adopted by Stern’s wife and raised by the Sterns family. The Court compared the surrogacy contract to the sale of a child, which is prohibited by New Jersey laws regulating adoption. On remand, the lower court awarded Sterns custody and Whitehead visitation rights. In 2009, Superior Court of New Jersey expanded the Baby M. precedent beyond a genetically related surrogate mother (where surrogate provides the egg) and declared gestational surrogacy (where the egg is provided by a donor) contracts to be a violation of public policy (A.G.R. v. D.R.H & S.H).

Some American states ban surrogacy outright, while others rely on case law. Only a few set out clearly who is the parent of a child born of a surrogate mother. Similar to New Jersey, New York laws on surrogacy contracts are rigid – in1992, New York’s legislature declared surrogate parenting contracts void and unenforceable as contrary to public policy and prescribed civil and criminal penalties for entering into surrogacy contract involving any fees. N.Y. Domestic Relations Law §122, 123.… <Read More>

Recent challenges to DOMA – the end is near?

In the words of President Obama, addressing the LGBT community in June 2011, “I told you I was against the Defense — so-called Defense of Marriage Act. I’ve long supported efforts to pass a repeal through Congress. And until we reach that day, my administration is no longer defending DOMA in the courts. The law is discriminatory. It violates the Constitution. It’s time for us to bring it to an end.”

While our President took a firm stance on constitutionality of DOMA, the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group soon announced that the House would defend the Defense of Marriage Act.… <Read More>