Family Law

Family Law News 2015, Issue 2, Volume 37, No. 2

Recent Developments in Domestic Violence Case Law

Olivia Porter and Nancy Lemon

Olivia Porter is currently in her second semester as a law clerk at Family Violence Appellate Project. She is a 3L student at Golden Gate University, where she has been awarded a Dean’s Scholarship. She was previously a social work intern at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she conducted individual and group therapy for children who had been sexually abused, and ran an outreach program focused on relationship skills in high schools in Wendover, Nevada. She holds a B.S.W and M.S.W from Brigham Young University.

Nancy Lemon is a founder and Legal Director of Family Violence Appellate Project. She is the author of Domestic Violence Law, the premiere textbook on the subject, and has been teaching the Domestic Violence Seminar at UC Berkeley Law – the first law school class of its kind – since 1988, where she also directs the Domestic Violence Practicum. Among her recent honors are the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence’s Corbitt award (2013); the California Women’s Law Center Pursuit of Justice Award (2014), and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (2009). Nancy holds a B.A. degree in Women’s Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and earned a J.D. degree from UC Berkeley School of Law.

In February 2012, two Berkeley Law students listened intently to a young woman who had survived years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her father. He obtained custody despite having severely physically abused the woman’s mother. Nancy Lemon, a longtime Lecturer in Domestic Violence Law at Berkeley, and author of the first legal textbook on the topic, commented to her students that while California has strong laws protecting victims of domestic violence, in order for them to be enforced, someone should be appealing cases where battered women lost custody to abusers, putting the children in danger of abuse. Her comments weren’t mere speculation. Lemon had authored an article showing that in states where family law appeals are brought, trial courts are more likely to follow domestic violence laws. (Nancy K. D. Lemon, Statutes Creating Rebuttable Presumptions Against Custody to Batterers: How Effective are They?, 28 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 601 (2001).)

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