Immigrant Rights Clinic Rule 16 Student Attorneys with Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, Dean Ronald Weich, Prof. Elizabeth Keyes and Prof. Sabrina Balgamwalla.
Battered wife wants contact, but CSA upholds judge’s ruling
Posted: 7:11 pm Thu, February 28, 2013
By Beth Moszkowicz
Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer
A Court of Special Appeals ruling this week prohibiting direct contact between a domestic violence victim and her abuser highlights just how sharply divided women’s advocates remain on whether such intervention protects victims or deters them from reporting abuse.
The court upheld a judge’s decision prohibiting direct contact between a Maryland man who abused his wife and his spouse, even though she expressed her desire to reconcile with him.
“The opinion could stop other women from coming forward, because they would see that they don’t have the power to make decisions about the most intimate relationships in their lives,” said Leigh Goodmark, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and director of clinical education and the family law clinic.
Goodmark, who is also co-director of the Center on Applied Feminism, noted that the women whose wishes are being superseded have no standing in the criminal case.
In contrast, Dorothy J. Lennig, director of the legal clinic at the House of Ruth Maryland, said a judge has the right to take whatever steps necessary to protect victims of domestic violence.
“It seems like there was repeated violence in this case, and if the state doesn’t try to protect her, then the state is accountable and the system fails,” Lennig said.
L. Tracy Brown, executive director of the Women’s Law Center of Maryland Inc. summed up the consensus, however, that this “difficult” case, which came the same week that Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, raises many of the challenges inherent in domestic violence cases.
“It starkly demonstrates the need for a nuanced and sensitive approach that addresses all the competing priorities,” Brown said in an emailed statement.
The case involving Montgomery County resident James Lambert Jr. began when Lambert and his wife had an argument in September 2009 over the contents of a lockbox. According to the court’s opinion, Lambert pushed his wife and she fell over a railing and down the stairs, injuring her head and abdomen.
Lambert pleaded guilty to second-degree assault on March 24, 2010, and was sentenced on April 15, 2010. At the sentencing, the court said Lambert admitted to assaulting his wife in the past. In a letter to the court, the wife said she could not remember the details of the assault that took place in September. She said she did not fear her husband and hoped to go to counseling to resolve the problems in their marriage.
Circuit Court Judge Robert N. Dugan, however, was not persuaded. Dugan sentenced Lambert to three years of confinement, all suspended, and placed him on three years of supervised probation.
“[Dugan] noted the ongoing pattern of assaultive behavior between appellant and Mrs. Lambert,” the court said. “The judge further explained that he had been involved, as an attorney, in a case of repeated domestic violence that resulted in the victim’s death. Consequently, the judge imposed a special condition on appellant’s probation that he ‘have no contact’ with Mrs. Lambert during his probation period.”
The judge denied Lambert’s motion for reconsideration of his sentence in August 2010. Around this time, an anonymous tip led prosecutors to discover that the couple was talking on the telephone almost every day from May 17 through May 25, 2010. As a result, Lambert was charged with violating his probation.
Lambert moved to correct his sentence as illegal on Oct. 15, 2010, and filed an affidavit from his wife in which she said the no-contact provision was against her wishes and alleged that the provision “grievously prejudiced and compromised” her marital relationship. Dugan heard both the charge of violation of probation and his motion to correct his sentence on Nov. 22, 2010. The judge held Lambert in violation of probation, denied his motion to correct the sentence and reinstated his suspended sentence and probation, now scheduled to end on Nov. 22, 2013.
In upholding Dugan’s decision, the court said it could not say that the three-year prohibition on contact was excessive, “given the necessity to advance the state’s compelling interest in securing [the wife’s] safety from yet another incident of domestic violence at the hands of [the husband].”
The court said a judge is “vested with very broad discretion in sentencing criminal defendants, and is accorded this broad latitude to best accomplish the objectives of sentencing — punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation.” It also noted that, by perpetrating an act of domestic violence against his wife, Lambert “subordinated his rights to the state’s interests in punishment, deterrence, and rehabilitation.”
Judge Albert J. Matricciani Jr. wrote the opinion, which was joined by Judge Robert A. Zarnoch and Judge J. Frederick Sharer, a retired judge who was specially assigned to the case.
Assistant Attorney General Susannah Prucka represented the state in the case. In an emailed statement, Prucka said the sentence was justified by the facts of the case.
“As the Court of Special Appeals recognized, the state has a compelling interest in protecting the victims of domestic violence from further abuse, and the trial judge reasonably found the no-contact provision was necessary to achieve that goal,” she said.
Howard R. Cheris, an attorney at Armstrong & Cheris in Rockville who represented Lambert, said that, generally speaking, marriage is a “sacred relationship that is privileged and entitled to special consideration.”
“The absolute prohibition was wrong at the appellate level and at the trial level,” he said.
Cheris said that, while the case seems “ripe for further consideration,” his client does not have a plan to appeal to the Court of Appeals.
WHAT THE COURT HELD
James Lambert Jr. v. State of Maryland, September Term 2010, No. 2542 Argued Jan. 10, 2013. Decided Feb. 27, 2012. Opinion by Matricciani, J.
Is a probation condition prohibiting direct contact between appellant and his wife, the domestic violence victim, an illegal sentence where the victim has expressed her desire to reconcile with appellant?
The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the Circuit Court of Montgomery County’s ruling prohibiting the direct contact.
Howard R. Cheris, Armstrong & Cheris in Rockville, for appellant; Susannah Prucka, Office of the Attorney General, for appellee.RecordFax #13-0228-00 (6 pages).
Congratulations to UB Family Law Clinic alum, Kelly Powers, who is co-counsel with Stephen J. Cullen, a partner at Miles & Stockbridge, in an international family law case before the Supreme Court on December 5, 2012. this term. Read more about the case in the September 30, 2012, The Daily Record article at http://thedailyrecord.com/2012/09/30/cullen-hopes-high-court-will-draw-line-on-appealing-international-custody-disputes/
In March, 2012, University of Baltimore Law School Professor Daniel Hatcher worked in collaboration with the Job Opportunities Task Force in drafting the legislation and testified, together with former Civil Advocacy Clinic Rule 16 student attorney, Maria Martirano, in support of a bill that later would be approved by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley on May 22, 2012. House Bill 651 establishes that child support payments are not past due and arrearages may not accrue during any period when the obligor is incarcerated and for a specified period after the obligor's release from confinement under specified circumstances; authorizing the Child Support Enforcement Administration to adjust an incarcerated obligor's payment account in specified cases to reflect the suspension of the accrual of arrearages under the Act. Hatcher and Martirano testified how HB 651 benefits the children, custodial and non-custodial parents and also the State. Complete testimony can be read here.
Larry Lane Hugee, a client of the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic, left the Wicomico County Courthouse in Salisbury, Md. a free man on May 16 after the State of Maryland declined to re-prosecute the armed robbery charges that had kept him in prison since 2004. Hugee, now 57, had served more than eight years in prison for a robbery that the Innocence Project Clinic proved he did not commit. His release required countless hours of effort on the part of several UB Law Clinic students, Michele Nethercott, co-director of the Innocence Project Clinic, and staff attorney, Joseph Owens, who works with the clinic through a federal grant program known as the Wrongful Conviction Review Program.
Last March 8, Judge Leah J. Seaton granted Mr. Hugee a new trial after several rounds of litigation on numerous issues relating to ineffective assistance of counsel and the withholding of exculpatory material from the defense. Hugee accepted prosecutors' offer of a stet (an indefinite postponement that is effectively a dismissal of all charges in this cases) on all charges related to the robbery case. He walked out of the courthouse, freed after nearly a decade behind bars. He was greeted by his wife, daughter, son, and numerous other relatives who have waited years for this day.
Read Joe Surkiewicz's article from the May 28, 2012 issue of the The Daily Record spotlighting the work of UB Law Family Law Clinic students Sean Gahagan, Sierra Mitchell and Sarah Witri.
At Monday’s (3/19/2012) council meeting, Councilman Robert W. Curran sponsored a City Council Resolution declaring that freedom from domestic violence is a fundamental human right. The resolution passed by unanimous vote, making Baltimore only the second city in the country to recognize such a right for its citizens.
“Domestic violence is a widespread issue that has a serious impact on families in Baltimore City,” said Councilman Curran, who was approached earlier this month by the University of Baltimore’s Law School Family Law Clinic Community Education Team. This group, comprised of three third-year law students, Sean Gahagan, Sierra Mitchell and Sarah Witri, worked with Councilman Curran to draft and pass the resolution, which they hope will spread awareness and shift Baltimore’s thinking about domestic violence. Domestic violence is a widespread problem, both here in Baltimore and throughout the world. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women has urged the United States government to reassess existing mechanisms for protecting domestic violence survivors and for punishing abusers, stating that “violence against women is the most pervasive human rights violation which continues to challenge every country in the world, and the U.S. is not an exception.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 1 in 3 women and more than 1 in 4 men in the United States will experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. From July 2010 to June 2011, forty-three Marylanders lost their lives as a result of domestic violence. By passing this resolution, Baltimore joins a growing chorus of voices around the world condemning domestic violence and proclaiming that state and local governments should continue to secure this human right on behalf of their citizens.
The strong ranking, up seven spots from last year, is evidence of both the outstanding clinical education we provide to our students and to the work that our faculty do to serve the wider clinical community. We are truly fortunate to have unmatched clinical faculty and staff, as well as colleagues, a law school and a university that support the work we do to serve our community and prepare our students for practice.
On Thursday, September 22, 2011 the University of Baltimore School of Law Clinical Program and the University of Baltimore Law Review hosted the first ever Clinical Scholarship Symposium and Alumni Reception. Distinguished clinical professors from across the country discussed their perspectives on various issues in clinical education. Speakers included: Susan Brooks (Drexel Law School), Binny Miller (Washington College of Law, American University) and Margaret Johnson (University of Baltimore School of Law), Catherine Klein and Lisa Martin (Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America).
Following the Panel, former Clinic alumni celebrated many accomplishments of the Clinical program including, the presentation of former Family Law Clinic student Elizabeth Kenderdine as the first Venable House of Ruth Fellow as well as the naming of Professor Robert Rubinson as the new recipient of the Dean Gilbert A. Holmes Endowed Professor of Clinical Theory and Practice. Professor Jane Murphy was the initial recipient of the professorship in 2006.
The Clinical Scholarship Symposium can be viewed here.
In October 2010, the University of Baltimore Family Law Clinic became one of only two clinics in the country selected for a pilot program designed to increase access to justice for victims of domestic violence, sponsored by the Office of Vice President Joseph Biden. The program brings law school clinics, domestic violence service providers and law firms together to generate creative ways to provide representation in civil domestic violence matters. In April 2011, the House of Ruth Maryland, Venable LLP and the University of Baltimore Family Law Clinic announced that Elizabeth Kenderdine, a 2010 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law, would be the first Venable Access to Justice for Domestic Violence Victims Fellow. With funding from Venable LLP, Ms. Kenderdine will work at the House of Ruth Maryland Legal Clinic representing victims of domestic violence for the next year.