5 Women's Rts. L. Rep. 7 (1978-1979)
Litigation on Behalf of Battered Women

handle is hein.journals/worts5 and id is 15 raw text is: Litigation on Behalf of
Battered Women
LAURIE WOODS*

I. INTRODUCTION
In December 1976, twelve battered women in
New York City instituted a class action for de-
claratory and 'injunctive relief against the New
York City Police, the New York City Department
of Probation, and the clerks of the Family Court.1
Suing on behalf of themselves and all other bat-
tered women similarly situated, the plaintiffs al-
* The author is an attorney at MFY Legal Services, Inc.,
in New York City. She is one of the six attorneys representing
the plaintiffs in the lawsuit which is the subject of this Article.
The other attorneys are John W. Corwin and Doris Peterson
of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Nancy E. Biberman of
MFY Legal Services, Inc., John E. Kirklin of the Legal Aid
Society's Civil Division, and Marjory D. Fields of Brooklyn
Legal Services Corporation B. In December 1976, the six
attorneys and four legal organizations formed the Litigation
Coalition for Battered Women and filed suit against a variety
of defendants on behalf of battered women. This lawsuit is the
product of the efforts of these attorneys and twenty-five law
students, paralegal workers, and secretaries over the past
three years. The bravery of the twelve plaintiffs and the ap-
proximately one hundred subsequent affiants made this law-
suit possible.
The legal analysis underlying the lawsuit is derived from
the thinking and work of all of plaintiffs' counsel. The opinions
expressed in this Article are the author's.
1. Bruno v. Codd, 90 Misc.2d 1047, 396 N.Y.S.2d 974
(Sup. Ct. 1977), rev'd in part, appeal dismissed in part, 407
N.Y.S.2d 165 (App. Div. 1978). In addition to officials of these
three agencies, the complaint named as a defendant the state
director of probation, alleging that he has supervisory respon-
sibility for the actions of local probation departments through-
out the state. The pleadings, briefs, decisions, and consent
decree (file 19,951) are available from the National Clearing-
house for Legal Services, 500 North Michigan Ave., Suite
2220', Chicago, IL 60611.

leged in Bruno v. Codd that the defendant agen-
cies engaged in a pervasive pattern and practice of
denying to abused wives the legal protection and
assistance to which they were entitled under state
law.2 Briefly, the plaintiffs charged the police de-
fendants with refusal to assist battered women or
to arrest their assailant husbands solely because
the parties were married. The other defendants
were accused of denying plaintiffs their right to
petition the family court for orders of protection. 3
On June 26, 1978, the police department defen-
dants settled all claims asserted against them and
entered into a consent judgment with the plain-
tiffs.4 The case against the family court is still
pending.5 This Article is intended to help other
litigators develop suits on behalf of abused
women by outlining each step of the litigation in
Bruno. The Article begins with a brief general
examination of the problems concerning battered
women and various legal solutions before focusing
on the specific legal factual and political aspects of
Bruno.
II. THE PROBLEM
Until very recently, battered women were invis-
ible. Indeed, the common law of England and of
2. Id. at 1048, 396 N.Y.S.2d at 976.
3. Id.
4. The text of the consent judgment is reprinted in the
Appendix.
5. Bruno v. Codd, 407 N.Y.S.2d 165 (App. Div. 1978),
appeal docketed, Aug. 8, 1978.

[Women's Rights Law Reporter, Volume 5, Number 1, Fail 1978]
@ 1979 by Women's Rights Law Reporter, Rutgers-The State University
0085-026917910315-207 $13.50

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