Executive Director's Report

A Good Decade

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This year marks the 10th an­niversary of the ABA Com­mis­sion on Domestic Violence and the Violence Against Wom­­en Act.

Under the leadership of Laura Stein of Pittsburgh, chair of the commission for the past three years, the an­ni­versary was celebrated at the ABA Annual Meeting in Atlanta. The festivities included a well-attended CLE program, a reception and the release of the second edition of a major commission report: “The Impact of Domestic Violence on Your Legal Practice.”

The report is a lawyer’s handbook with more than 50 chapters on the impact of domestic violence in numerous areas of the law including family, criminal, real property and tort law. It also addresses the ethical responsibilities of law­yers representing both victims and batterers, and it provides practical guidelines for conducting safety planning with clients.


Since its founding in 1994 by then-ABA President Roberta Cooper Ramo, the commission has emerged as a national leader in developing programs and educational materials to address the serious problem of domestic violence. It provides leadership on legal responses to domestic violence, raising awareness among attorneys and in­creasing the number of attorneys representing victims in a wide range of legal fields.

The commission also works with law schools to integrate domestic violence education into the curriculum. In May, it published “Teach Your Students Well: Incorporat­ing Domestic Violence Into Law School Curricula—A Law School Report,” which describes the current extent of domestic violence education in each of the nation’s law schools. The publication includes suggestions and model curricula for domestic violence education.

The number of law schools offering domestic violence courses has more than tripled in the last seven years, from 57 cited in a 1997 commission report to 185 listed in the 2004 report. In conjunction with this publication, the House of Delegates passed a policy recommendation in August 2003 encouraging law schools and law students to promote awareness of domestic violence through law school activities and programs. In April, the commission launched a law student writing competition named in memory of Bette Garlow, 1999-2003 director of the commission and a national activist against domestic violence.

Since 2000, the commission has conducted five educational institutes and 10 two-hour CLE teleconferences focusing on critical areas of domestic violence representation such as trial practice skills and on information about specific aspects of domestic violence law such as immigration and American Indian tribal issues. This year, it hosted a teleconference on tribal issues and domestic violence, as well as a four-teleconference series on litigation tips in handling domestic violence cases.

In 2003, the commission launched a program to host international legal scholars working on issues of violence against women to facilitate the exchange of information and strategies for legal responses to domestic violence worldwide. Also in 2003 it hosted a fellow from China, and in 2004 work has begun with the ABA’s Africa and Latin America law initiative councils to bring fellows from those areas to the United States.

Committed to raising awareness about partner violence among teen­agers, the commission has published a brochure, “Teen Dating Violence: There Is No Excuse,” and it is working on a Teen Dating Violence Initiative with the Steering Committee on the Unmet Legal Needs of Children and the Center on Children and the Law. The commission has also worked with the American Medical Association and the ABA Committee on Legal Assis­tance for Military Personnel to ensure a multidisciplinary approach to addressing violence against women.

The commission’s Web site is an invaluable resource for attorneys, law students, legal educators and victims of abuse, offering comprehensive training materials. Last October, the commission launched CDVLAW, an e-mail discussion list for attorneys representing victims of domestic violence, to provide them with a forum to share experiences, case law and strategies. The list has more than 500 active members and has been lauded by national leaders as a critical resource.

As the commission moves into its second decade under its new chair, Margaret Bell Drew of Norwood, Mass., it is well-positioned to continue its leadership in providing a legal response to the serious worldwide problem of domestic violence.

For more information on the work of the commission, contact its outstanding staff director, Robin Runge, at 202-662-8637 or via e-mail at [email protected].

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