Jessica Lenahan (formerly Gonzales) to Speak about Domestic Violence Case

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to Rule by Year's End, 10 Years after Lenahan's Three Young Children Were Murdered

Media Contact:  Nancy Goldfarb, 212-854-1584                      [email protected]               

WHAT:  A panel discussion of the challenges and tactics involved in litigating Jessica Ruth Gonzales v. United States, the first case brought by a survivor of domestic violence against the U.S. before an international human rights tribunal. Lenahan’s three young daughters were killed in 1999 after police officers failed to enforce a restraining order against her estranged husband.

WHEN:  October 27, 2009 12:15 -1:30 p.m.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

WHO:    Jessica Lenahan, plaintiff and client of the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic, will retell her agonizing story and share her journey for justice.

Columbia Law School panelists will discuss different legal aspects of the case:

Caroline Bettinger-Lopez, Clinical Staff Attorney and Lecturer-In-Law, Human Rights Clinic

Ariela Dubler, Professor of Law

Katherine Franke, Professor of Law and Director, Center for Gender and Sexuality

Gillian Metzger, Professor of Law

Elizabeth Scott, Harold R. Medina Professor in Procedural Jurisprudence and Vice Dean


WHERE:   Columbia Law School, Jerome Greene Hall, 9th floor, Room 940

Located at West 116th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.


Event co-sponsored by: Amnesty International | Black Law Students Association | Center for Gender and Sexuality Law | Columbia Law Women’s Association | Domestic Violence Project | Rightslink.

BACKGROUND: Ms. Lenahan is the first U.S. domestic violence victim to bring a legal challenge against the U.S. before an international human rights body for its response to violence against women. She filed a complaint after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 rejected her due process claims against the local Colorado police for failing to enforce a domestic violence restraining order (Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales). About the pending decision, Ms. Lenahan said, “I turned to the IACHR… because the justice system in the United States had abandoned me.”  “International human rights bodies like the IACHR give U.S. citizens the opportunity to have a voice, particularly those who have lost everything.”


Read and watch account of Lenahan’s story on CBS-TV’s
“60 Minutes”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was established in 1959 and is expressly authorized to examine allegations of human rights violations by members of the Organization of American States, which includes the United States. The Commission also conducts on-site visits to observe the general human rights situations in all 35 member-states of the Organization of American States and investigates specific allegations of violations of Inter-American human rights treaties and other legal instruments. The Commission is charged with promoting the observance and respect of human rights throughout the Americas.

                                                                                           # # #
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins its traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, criminal, national security, and environmental law.