Client successfully appealed the denial of her Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO). At her last hearing, following nearly two years of pandemic and other continuances, the trial court offered the survivor an opportunity to agree to an ongoing temporary restraining order (TRO). This would not be a finding of domestic violence and would not have the same protections as a domestic violence restraining order after hearing. When she refused, the trial court found she did not have “a reasonable fear of future abuse” and denied the DVRO request. That is the standard to renew a restraining order, not grant an initial DVRO. The trial court also failed to find that the other party in the case had violated the TRO despite undisputed evidence that the other party had contacted her to threaten and intimidate her. FVAP and Barnes & Thornburg co-counseled on an amicus brief supported by 22 other organizations and individuals. The brief discussed the problematic trend of multiple continuances and the false premise that a temporary order had the same protections as a final order after hearing. The brief also discussed common protective parenting practices of survivors who put themselves at risk not because they are not afraid but because it is safer for their children to be present. The Court of Appeal reversed and sent the matter back to the trial court. It ruled that the trial court erred by not finding that the other party’s violations of the TRO were abuse, when in fact they were, explicitly meeting the client’s burden of proof for receiving a domestic violence restraining order.
FVAP co-counseled with Barnes & Thornburg, LLP and were proud to support the appeal brought by Community Legal Aid SoCal.
Michael M. v. Robin J. (Published) – Survivor’s Retaliatory or Angry Motives for Renewing a DVRO Does Not Mean There is Not a Genuine Fear of Future Abuse
The survivor asked the trial court to renew her domestic violence restraining order because her former boyfriend had physically attacked her 5 months after the initial DVRO was issued, violated the DVRO by texting her directly instead of using the Talking Parent platform, physically abused the parties’ minor child, and refused to pay child support. Despite this evidence, the trial court denied the survivor’s request to renew her DVRO because there had been no violations of the DVRO in the “past several years” and it believed the survivor’s fear of her former boyfriend was not credible because it found that there were other circumstances that led to the survivor filing the request. The appellate court reversed and renewed the survivor’s DVRO. The appellate court concluded that the trial court was wrong to 1) require the survivor to show evidence of a recent act of abuse or a recent violation of the DVRO, 2) determine that an “unquestionably violation” of the DVRO was not “really” a violation, and 3) “infer a retaliatory motive from the mere timing of [the survivor’s] renewal request” and reject her claim of fear of future abuse on that basis alone. Significantly, the appellate court noted “anger and fear are not mutually exclusive” so even if the survivor did have a retaliatory motive for asking the court to renew her restraining order this did not negate her reasonable fear of future abuse.
FVAP is thankful to have co-counseled this matter with Covington & Burling, LLP.
The appellate court’s published opinion can be found here.
Vinson v. Kinsey – Survivor’s Ongoing Contact With the Person Who is Abusive Does Not Mean Abuse Did Not Happen
In Vinson v. Kinsey, the survivor asked the trial court for a domestic violence restraining order because her ex-partner physically abused her and threatened to kill her. In addition to her declaration, the survivor provided the court with six written declarations from witnesses to verbal abuse and/or her physical injuries. The survivor also gave the court copies of text messages where her ex-partner admitted that he had threatened to kill her and admitted to hitting her in the past. Despite this evidence, the trial court denied the survivor’s request for a restraining order, concluding that the survivor was not “concerned” about her ex-partner’s “comment that he would kill her” because she continued to have contact with him. The appellate court overturned the trial court’s decision to deny the restraining order and sent the case back for the trial court to decide whether a restraining order should be issued. The appellate court explained that threats do not need to be threats of violence to constitute abuse under California law. The appellate court further noted that “other aspects of the trial court’s ruling [were] also troubling,” namely that the trial court wrongly focused on the survivor’s continued contact with her ex-partner. In doing this, the trial court “effectively imposed on [her] a singular vision of how an abused woman should act” when “[all] women exposed to violence and abuse . . . do not respond similarly.” FVAP successfully co-counseled this matter with Latham & Watkins, LLP.
FVAP is thankful to have co-counseled with Latham & Watkins, LLP on this matter.
The appellate court’s published opinion can be found here.
In this case, our client, Jennifer Hatley, requested a DVRO against and spousal support from her estranged husband, James Southard. Despite Jennifer alleging a pattern of coercive control, including financial control, emotional and verbal abuse, taking her car and phone, and even some physical abuse, the trial court denied Jennifer’s DVRO request. The court also refused to let Jennifer testify to sexual abuse, which she alleged only in a supplemental declaration without giving details. Finally, the court failed to rule on Jennifer’s request for spousal support, effectively denying it; Jennifer, representing herself at trial, did not know to press the issue.
The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision and sent it back for a new hearing on both the support request and the DVRO, concluding Jennifer’s allegations, if true, would meet the “broad” DVPA definition of abuse, especially as amended by 2020’s Senate Bill 1141, which clarified that DVPA abuse includes, among other things, coercive control. The trial court also must consider Jennifer’s allegations of sexual abuse, as those were properly raised in her supplemental declaration. Plus, the Court confirmed, even if a DVRO is denied, trial courts still have to rule on a support request. Finally, the Court recognized that if Jennifer again represents herself, the trial court would have to take a more active role in making sure she can properly present her case. FVAP co-counseled this case with Morrison Foerster, with amicus support from California Women’s Law Center and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, who successfully requested publication.
The court’s published opinion can be found here.
FVAP is seeking 1-3 law clerks to join our dynamic California office for Fall 2023, Spring 2024 and Summer 2024. The Fall and Spring clerkships are for the school semester for a minimum of 16 hours per week, though 20 hours is strongly preferred. The Summer clerkship is 10 weeks at 37.5 hours per week. Starting and ending weeks are flexible based on a clerk’s academic semester, quarter, or year. Our California office is in Oakland, California. FVAP staff are primarily remote. There are hybrid options for clerks who want to use the office and opportunities for in person check-ins with supervisors, meetings and events with staff.
We value diverse experiences and backgrounds. FVAP’s clientele is diverse, and we serve individuals and advocates throughout the state, including rural, suburban, and urban populations. The ideal candidate will bring skills and experiences enabling the candidate to serve these diverse populations well in the context of domestic violence and appellate litigation. FVAP is an equal opportunity employer. In furtherance of social justice principles and to best serve our clients, FVAP is committed to supporting a diverse staff and providing culturally responsive services. Individuals of all races, ethnicities, national origins, religions, ages, sexes, sexual orientations, and gender identities, as well as differently abled persons, survivors of domestic violence, candidates from traditionally underrepresented communities and historically oppressed groups, bilingual and bicultural candidates, and those who are the first in their family to complete college or graduate school, are encouraged to apply.
Family Violence Appellate Project is the only organization in California and Washington states dedicated to appealing cases pro bono on behalf of survivors of domestic and other forms of interpersonal violence. We are dedicated to shaping California and Washington law to meet the needs of survivors and their children to make choices that are best for them. We are also committed to supporting the statewide network of domestic violence and legal aid service providers. FVAP’s work includes:
- Representing clients’ pro bono in the California and Washington Courts of Appeal,
- Submitting amicus curiae briefs in cases of statewide importance,
- Monitoring unpublished cases daily and requesting publication of important domestic violence cases,
- Engaging in legislative and systems change advocacy efforts,
- Providing trainings, technical assistance, and written informational materials, and
- Facilitating information exchange among statewide stakeholders supporting survivors.
If you are interested in being part of this exciting social justice organization and resource for domestic violence survivors and advocates across California and Washington, this is the place for you! You can learn more at www.fvaplaw.org.
Duties may include the following (other duties may be assigned):
- Assisting with an active pipeline of case referrals, including:
- completing an initial case analysis, which includes but it not limited to reviewing the trial court record, analyzing the legal issues in the case, and
- making a preliminary recommendation on whether FVAP should accept the case for appeal
- Conducting legal research and writing
- Assisting FVAP’s work with pro bono co-counsel to file appellate and amicus curiae briefs
- Analyzing and presenting social science literature in the field of domestic violence
- Assist with updating and improving FVAP’s written materials and trainings
- Contributing overall to FVAP’s work to achieve its organizational mission
Required Qualifications and Experience:
- Completion of at least one year of law school at an accredited university
- Excellent communication and writing skills
- Strong organizational skills
- Strong ability to work independently and as part of a team
- Significant understanding of issues specifically facing clients in crisis and low‐income clients
- Strong to adapt to and work in environment and complete time-sensitive assignments thoroughly and on time
- Strong legal research skills
- Knowledge of the dynamics of domestic violence, domestic violence law and/or family law strongly preferred, either through course work or work experience or other experience. (Work in other areas of interpersonal violence may qualify)
Strongly Preferred but not Required Qualifications and Experience:
- Experience with civil trial or appellate court documents and procedure, particularly family court
- Experience working directly with clients in crisis
- Litigation or appellate experience
- Completion of a course or clinical work in Evidence, Domestic Violence Law or Family Law
- Experience with writing legal concepts in plain language for non-lawyers
Law clerks are unpaid but may be eligible for funding or course credit through their law school. We can provide support letters and other documents as needed if you are offered the clerkship.
To Apply: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Students are encouraged to apply early in the process, but at this time we do not have a cutoff date for applications nor a deadline by which we will have a decision. If you must know by a certain date for credit registration or funding purposes, please clearly state that in your email and cover letter.
Please email a cover letter, resume and a copy of the classes you have taken and registered for or a transcript (unofficial is fine). Please write in the subject line that you are applying for the California office and what position your are applying for e.g. 2023 Fall Law Clerk, 2024 Spring Law Clerk. 2024 Summer Law Clerk.
All applicant emails: firstname.lastname@example.org
Attn: Arati Vasan, Senior Managing Attorney (California)
Family Violence Appellate Project, 449 15th St. Suite 805, Oakland, CA 94612
Your cover letter should speak to:
1) why you are interested specifically in working at FVAP
2) how your background or experiences, educational or otherwise, have prepared you to contribute to our work and perform the required duties and any preferred qualifications, and
3) how your background or experiences, educational or otherwise, have prepared you to contribute to our commitment to diversity and cultural humility amongst our team of staff and interns. Feel free to think broadly about your response to these questions, applying various aspects of your life and personal experience.
Thank you for your interest in FVAP!