Posts Tagged ‘domestic violence’

“Middle-class peeves cost more money than exists”

Via R.J. Lehmann (Mar. 27), here are some figures indicating that the sum total of the alleged costs of other people’s bad behavior may well exceed the total sum of money in existence. To be more specific: start by adding up the claimed health expenses, productivity losses and other social costs of such indulgences as alcohol ($185 billion a year, it’s said with spurious precision), overeating ($115 billion), gambling ($54 billion), and so forth. Then throw in categories such as the costs of crime, time wasted by employees visiting web sites and watching sports events, and so forth. By the time you’re done, Lehmann says, you can “come up with a grand total of $7.39 trillion – well in excess of the $6.70 trillion that actually exists” — at least if you’re willing to include a few dodgy entries in the catalog, such as taxes. (Thomas C. Greene, The Register (UK), Mar. 16).

It’s not hard to see the relevance of this line of logic to themes often dealt with in this space. In the utopia of the litigators we would succeed in charging the social costs of our overeating to the food business, the costs of our gambling to the casinos and lotteries that led us on, the costs of 9/11 to assorted banks, airlines, building owners and Saudi nabobs, the costs of street crime to deep-pocketed entities guilty of negligent security, and so on and so forth for the costs of auto accidents, pharmaceutical side effects, failure to learn in school, domestic violence, etc. It would not be surprising if the sum total of all the different injuries, insults and indignities dealt out to the human race, if monetized at the rates prescribed by advocates, handily exceeded the sum total of wealth on hand to pay, even were the whole wealth of the world placed at the courts’ disposal.

Watch what you tell your hairdresser, cont’d

The official recruitment of cosmetologists as informants (and as intermediaries steering customers to approved “domestic-violence” programs) continues, with programs reported in Florida, Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Ohio and Maine, as well as Nevada and Connecticut (see Mar. 16 and Mar. 29, 2000). It’s not just black eyes or lacerations that the salon employees are supposed to be on the lookout for, either. A customer’s protestation that “he would not like that”, as a reason to turn down a new hairstyle, might be a sign of “controlling behavior” that needs watching. (“Salons join effort to stop violence”, Bangor Daily News, Jun. 15) (via van Bakel).

Restraining David Letterman

Colleen Nestler, a resident of Santa Fe, N.M., alleges that late night TV host David Letterman has communicated with her in coded words in his broadcasts, has tormented her and driven her into bankruptcy, and has promised to marry her. So far, nothing terribly unusual as regards the problems celebrities face from fixated fans; Letterman himself long endured the attentions of a female stalker suffering from mental illness, Margaret Mary Ray, who repeatedly was arrested for entering Letterman’s property. This time, however, the law has taken a different attitude: according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Judge Daniel Sanchez of the district court in Santa Fe late last week granted Ms. Nestler a temporary restraining order against Letterman, which the entertainer’s lawyers are now attempting to get lifted. Ms. Nestler’s application for the order

requested that Letterman, who tapes his show in New York, stay at least 3 yards from her and that he not “think of me, and release me from his mental harassment and hammering,” according to the application.

Nestler’s application was accompanied by a typed, six-page, double-spaced letter in which she said Letterman used code words, gestures and “eye expressions” to convey his desire to marry her and train her as his co-host. Her story also involves Regis Philbin, Kathie Lee Gifford and Kelsey Grammer, whom Nestler says either supported or attempted to thwart her “relationship” with Letterman, according to the letter….

When asked if he might have made a mistake, Sanchez said no. He also said he had read Nestler’s application.

(Jason Auslander, “Letterman lawyers: End Santa Fe claim”, Santa Fe New Mexican, Dec. 21) Discussion: Volokh, TalkLeft, and a hundred others. On judges’ over-readiness to grant restraining orders in cases of alleged domestic violence and its threat, see this set of links. Updates Dec. 23 (discussion); Jan. 2 (judge lifts order).

Won’t testify on domestic violence? Jail her

In San Mateo, Calif., Katina Britt was nearly jailed a few days ago for her refusal to testify against the ex-boyfriend who allegedly battered her. (He was convicted anyway and the charges were dropped.) Under present California law, sexual assault victims cannot be jailed for refusing to testify against their attackers, but domestic violence victims can. Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the court order compelling Britt to testify was “for her own protection”. (Malaika Fraley, “Ultimatum in abuse case: Testify or go to jail”, San Mateo County Times, Dec. 10; Michelle Durand, “Assemblyman to back abuse testimony bill”, San Mateo Daily Journal, Dec. 20; more coverage via Google News). Wendy McElroy wonders: “How has the issue of DV drifted from its early roots of empowering ‘victims’ and encouraging their voices toward imprisoning them and coercing their testimony?” (“Don’t jail domestic violence victims”, Enter Stage Right, Dec. 19).

Update: “Letting Children Witness Abuse Not Ground for Taking Them”

Welcome news from New York’s highest court: “A battered woman’s failure to prevent her children from witnessing her own abuse does not automatically give protective agencies license to remove the child, the New York Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday in a groundbreaking opinion.” (John Caher, New York Law Journal, Oct. 27). Four years ago (see “Battered? hand over your kids”, Jul. 12, 2000) the New York Times reported that city child protection authorities were removing children from homes in which one parent was found to have committed an act of domestic violence on the other, including such actions as slaps and shoving. “The rules encourage victims of abuse to conceal it, fearing their kids will be taken from them if they tell medical or social workers.” Update Dec. 19: New York City agrees to change policy.

U.K.: “Legal system is failing fathers, says judge”

Britain: “One of the country’s most senior family judges launched a blistering attack on the legal system yesterday for failing divorced and separated fathers. Mr Justice Munby said he felt ‘ashamed’ after dealing with a man who had fought unsuccessfully for five years to see his daughter,” the mother having ignored contact arrangements and groundlessly accused him of abuse and domestic violence. (Sarah Womack and Yolanda Copes-Stepney, Daily Telegraph, Apr. 2).

“Insult to Injury”

In recent decades, influenced by feminist views, the law’s treatment of domestic violence has swung toward a “mandatory arrest, mandatory prosecution” model in which the full weight of criminal law is brought to bear on alleged batterers even if the victim would prefer not to press charges; reinforcing this model are mandatory-reporting laws requiring medical and other professionals to report on cases of likely battering. In Insult to Injury: Rethinking our Responses to Intimate Abuse, however, NYU social work and law professor Linda Mills argues that in practice this model often works against the interests of actual victims of domestic violence, undermining their power to improve their situations and discouraging them from seeking medical attention or other forms of assistance. Description and prologue from Princeton Univ. Press; reviews by Cathy Young (Reason), Clay Evans (Scripps Howard), Trish Oberweis (Law and Politics Book Review)(see Mar. 16 and Mar. 29, 2000; Mar. 4, 2002).