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Nicholson v. Williams, 820 N.E. 2d 840 (N.Y. 2004)

Nicholson v. Williams, 820 N.E. 2d 840 (N.Y. 2004)

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Published by Legal Momentum
Legal Momentum filed an amicus brief in Nicholson v. Williams, a high-profile case that resulted in a resounding victory for battered mothers who challenged New York City's Administration for Children Services' practice of bringing child neglect proceedings against them on the basis of the mothers' having "allowed" their children to witness domestic violence or their having "engaged" in domestic violence simply by being a victim of domestic violence.

Our brief, submitted on behalf of NOW Foundation and the New York Civil Liberties Union in addition to Legal Momentum, approached the issues from a women's right perspective. It brought to the Court's attention the extensive research (much spearheaded by Legal Momentum's National Judicial Education Program) documenting that gender biases and stereotypes cause courts and other institutional actors to assume that a battered mother, by definition, is not exercising reasonable care for her children. To reduce the likelihood that the city agency removes children from their mothers based on such pernicious stereotypes, we urged that the Family Court Act be interpreted to require a particularized inquiry into what actions, both formal and informal, were reasonably available, or could have been made reasonably available, to a non-abusive parent to evade domestic violence or limit its effects on her child; what, if any, of these actions she took; and whether those actions or inactions fell below a reasonable standard of "exercis[ing] a minimum degree of care" for the child.
Legal Momentum filed an amicus brief in Nicholson v. Williams, a high-profile case that resulted in a resounding victory for battered mothers who challenged New York City's Administration for Children Services' practice of bringing child neglect proceedings against them on the basis of the mothers' having "allowed" their children to witness domestic violence or their having "engaged" in domestic violence simply by being a victim of domestic violence.

Our brief, submitted on behalf of NOW Foundation and the New York Civil Liberties Union in addition to Legal Momentum, approached the issues from a women's right perspective. It brought to the Court's attention the extensive research (much spearheaded by Legal Momentum's National Judicial Education Program) documenting that gender biases and stereotypes cause courts and other institutional actors to assume that a battered mother, by definition, is not exercising reasonable care for her children. To reduce the likelihood that the city agency removes children from their mothers based on such pernicious stereotypes, we urged that the Family Court Act be interpreted to require a particularized inquiry into what actions, both formal and informal, were reasonably available, or could have been made reasonably available, to a non-abusive parent to evade domestic violence or limit its effects on her child; what, if any, of these actions she took; and whether those actions or inactions fell below a reasonable standard of "exercis[ing] a minimum degree of care" for the child.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: Legal Momentum on Jun 16, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/06/2013

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STATE OF NEW YORK COURT OF APPEALS
SHARWLINE NICHOLSON,
et al.
,
 Plaintiffs-Appellees
, Index Number USCOA 2, 171
 
- against - NAT WILLIAMS,
et al.
,
 Defendants-Appellants.On Certification from the United StatesCourt of Appeals for the Second Circuit 
BRIEF OF PROPOSED
AMICI CURIAE 
 LEGAL MOMENTUM, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMENFOUNDATION, AND NEW YORK CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION
Deborah A. WidissChristina Brandt-YoungJennifer K. BrownLEGAL MOMENTUM395 Hudson Street, 5th Floor  New York, NY 10014212-925-6635
 Attorneys for proposed 
Amici Curiae
 
ii
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES .....................................................................................................iiiSTATEMENTS OF INTEREST …………………………………………………………………1INTRODUCTION ………………………………………………………..………………..….….2POINT I. WIDESPREAD PERSISTENT GENDER BIAS COMPROMISESGOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE,PARTICULARLY WHEN CHILDREN ARE INVOLVED.................................4A. Sex Discrimination Jurisprudence Makes Clear the Improprietyof Basing Government Policy or Practice on Gender-BasedStereotypes...............................................................................................5B. Because of Gender Bias, Courts and Other Institutional ActorsTend to Blame Women, Particularly Battered Women, for AnyHarm their Children Suffer.......................................................................61. Task Forces on Gender Bias in the Courts UniformlyReveal Widespread Gender Bias That DisadvantagesWomen.........................................................................................62. Gender Bias Continues to Result in Victim-Blaming inActions Involving Battered Mothers.............................................83. The New York State Judicial Committee on Women inthe Courts Specifically Recommends Education RegardingSex Stereotypes to Address the Demonstrated Bias AgainstBattered Mothers........................................................................12C. ACS Improperly Substituted Gender Bias and Stereotypes for Factual Findings in its Decision Making Processes.................................15POINT II. THIS COURT SHOULD INTERPRET THE FAMILY COURT ACTTO REQUIRE A PARTICULARIZED SHOWING OF ACTIONS (OR INACTIONS) THAT CONSTITUTE A FAILURE TO EXERCISE AMINIMUM DEGREEOF CARE..........................................................................................................20A. The Family Court Act Requires a Showing that a Child’s InjuryIs Attributable to an Individual Parent’s Failure to Exercise aMinimum Degree of Care.......................................................................20
 
iiiB. A Determination of “Failure to Exercise a Minimum Degreeof Care” Must Include an Honest Non-Biased Consideration of the Full Range of Reasonable Responses that a Non-AbusiveParent Can Take to Protect Herself and Her Children FromInjury.....................................................................................................22POINT III. THIS COURT SHOULD RESPOND TO THE CERTIFIEDQUESTIONS WITH GUIDELINES THAT DETER RELIANCE ONGENDER-BASED STEREOTYPES.................................................................28CONCLUSION........................................................................................................................30

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