Local Human Rights Lawyering Project

Center Convenes Experts to Assess Next Steps for Recent Baltimore City Council Resolution Declaring Freedom from Domestic Violence is a Fundamental Human Right

On June 13, 2012, the Center convened a meeting of human rights and domestic violence experts to discuss implementation and brainstorm next steps regarding the recent Baltimore City Council resolution declaring freedom from domestic violence is a fundamental human right.

In March 2012, the Baltimore City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring that freedom from domestic violence is a fundamental human right. This is the second city in the United States (Cincinnati, Ohio was the first) to recognize such a right for its citizens. University of Baltimore Law Clinic Students drafted the resolution and successfully lobbied the council. Local Human Rights Lawyering Project Partner Maryland Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Task Force expressed interest in integrating the resolution into their daily advocacy but needed assistance in thinking through how best to do that.

Ideas discussed at the meeting for how to effectively use the Baltimore resolution in everyday advocacy included referencing the resolution in opening and closing arguments in child custody and protection order cases, as well as in housing cases, public benefits and consumer cases where domestic violence is a factor. In addition, the experts on the call stressed the need to pass additional resolutions in other jurisdictions in Maryland, as well as outside Maryland, to give greater credibility and to tie the Baltimore City resolution to a greater movement. The experts noted that similar resolutions are being considered for Miami-Dade County and Washington, D.C.

The human rights and domestic violence experts convened by the Center included Carrie Bettinger-Lopez, Associate Professor of Clinical Legal Education and Director of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law and lead counsel on the Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights case decided last year; Amy Meyers, Practitioner-in-Residence and Director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at American University Washington College of Law; Sandra S. Park, a staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project; Margaret Drew, the former University of Cincinnati Clinical Professor whose students lobbied for the Cincinnati resolution; Leigh Goodmark, Associate Professorof Law and Family Law Clinic Co-Director at the University of Baltimore School of Law, whose students lobbied for the Baltimore Resolution; and Risa Kaufman, Executive Director of the Human Rights Institute and a Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School.

Maryland Legal Aid domestic violence and human rights attorneys also joined the call, including Reena Shah, the new Human Rights Coordinator; Cheryl Hystad, Director of Advocacy; Ann Lembo, Chief Attorney in the Baltimore County Office; and Patricia Cochran, Family Law attorney in the Baltimore City office.