9th Circuit Federal
Court of Appeals July 20th, 2000
Have a Constitutional Right to Non-Discriminatory Police Services!
This landmark decision is now binding law in all states and jurisdictions
of the U.S. 9th Judicial District; Alaska, Arizona, California,
Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam, and the
Northern Mariana Isles.
a groundbreaking unanimous decision on July 20th, the 9th Circuit
Federal Court of Appeals ruled that women have a constitutional
right to non-discriminatory police services. The ruling overturns
the district court's 1999 dismissal of Macias v. Sheriff Mark Ihde,
and in the most clearly stated decision of its kind to date, establishes
that women have a constitutional 14th amendment right to hold police
legally accountable for their response to violence against women.
Even if the Macias case were to lose back in the district court,
this overarching decision laid down by the second highest court
in the land will remain law.
Throughout history and
right into the present day, many in law enforcement have regularly
dumped, ignored, and simply not wanted to deal seriously with cases
of rape and domestic violence. And women have never had legal right
nor remedy to hold law enforcement accountable.
When pressed to answer
for their disregard of one or many cases, police have been able
to answer assuredly that they have officer discretion to handle
these cases as they wish. And the highest courts of the land have
agreed. No wonder the violence against women rages on!
Maria Teresa Macias was
shot to death by her estranged husband Avelino in the town of Sonoma
on April 15, 1996. For more than a year prior to her murder, Marķa
Teresa had repeatedly sought help from the Sonoma County Sheriff's
Dept. regarding her husband's years of violence against herself
and her three children. In just the last three months of her life,
after having obtained a restraining order, Marķa Teresa called the
Sheriff's Department for help on at least fourteen occasions. Calls
and written reports to law enforcement detailed Avelino's continued
stalking, rape, false imprisonment, threats to kill, and harassment,
as well as his decade of physical and sexual violence against Marķa
Teresa and her children.
The $15 million federal
civil rights lawsuit, filed October 9, 1996, alleges that the Sheriff's
Department discriminated against Teresa as a woman, as a Latina,
and as a victim of violence against women. The suit further alleges
that the Sheriff's Department denied her constitutional right to
equal protection of the law by failing to take reports, by ignoring
evidence, discouraging her from calling, and more. In addition,
deputies never arrested Avelino despite ample authority and their
own written policy to do so.
Since 1868, the fourteenth
amendment to the constitution has promised equal protection of the
laws to all persons. By common sense and by all that's right, this
amendment should have protected
women. But throughout history, women have been all but excluded
from it's coverage. Since 1868, as women have tried to establish
their equal rights to vote, to work, or to justice, from the amendment's
promising words, the supreme court has again, and again into the
present, ruled from the dark-age legacy of their `separate sphere
ideology' for women.
"By divine ordination",
as the Supreme Court first stated this damning doctrine of women
as other than person, `women are "properly placed in a class by
herself"'. And so over time, the more women appealed to the 14th
amendment for equal rights, the more the Supreme Court said `No,
you're different', and the deeper the Court has driven the wedge
of women's inequality into the heart of American law.
It's only in the last
couple decades that women have begun to reverse some of the damages,
and this mostly in the areas of labor and education rights. In the
areas of law enforcement, however, the highest courts, as the Supreme
Court did twice in 1989, have in fact solidified law enforcement's
discretion to deny justice to women with impunity.
Now, after a century
and a half, at least in the 9th U.S. Judicial District, the Macias
decision rules. Women now have constitutional remedy to hold police
legally accountable when justice and protection are systematically
denied. The language of this new ruling is unflinching. It rings
so clearly with what is right as to be virtually unassailable.