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A woman's job

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a video is worth a lot more.

Even the pictures weren't that bad in the worst domestic violence case I've ever handled that didn't result in a death.  The guy had stomped the woman's head and broke six bones in her face, but the only pictures they took were right after the incident, and she was so bandaged up, you couldn't really see much.  I've seen bad pictures, though.  You can do a lot of damage to a person with your fists.  You can do much more with a lamp or a baseball bat.

But nothing brought home the base viciousness of the crime like the roundhouse left that Ray Rice launched at his fiancée in that hotel elevator.

This is how bad it is for the NFL right now:  Anheuser Busch, which gives about $200 million in rights fees and advertising to the league, is publicly critical of the league's response to the allegations that numerous players have treated their significant others like sparring partners.  When you lose the moral high ground to a beer company that spends much of that $200 million showing attractive young people having the time of their lives guzzling beer in bars, this while some 17,000 people die in drunk driving accidents each year, you've got a problem.  Ray Rice accomplished more public awareness of the reality of domestic violence in two seconds than was accomplished in the past thirty years.

That got me thinking.  I've often expressed my belief that the criminal justice system is one of the most racist institutions in the country.  Not intentionally so, in most cases, but when you've got Georgia repealing its life sentence for major drug dealers because of the first 367 sentenced under the law, 359 were black, well, 'nuff said.  I've always said that if I could distill my 38 years of practice of criminal law into one observation, it would be that it never hurts to be white, and it never helps to be black.  All generalities are false, but this one rarely.

Is there a misogynistic bent as well?  There certainly is in law enforcement.  Two years before the Cleveland police would discover eleven bodies in the home and yard of Anthony Sowell, a woman came into the station and said that Sowell had raped her.  The cops went to Sowell's house, but didn't charge him.  After the carnage in Sowell's home was revealed, a flunky was trotted out to explain the failure to fully investigate the earlier crime, and the best he could come up with was that while the police had indeed found blood in the stairwell of the house, they couldn't tell whose it was.   If only science had come up with a way to do that...  No one was surprised when several months later it came to light that there were some 3,000 rape kits sitting in the police evidence room that nobody had even bothered to send out for testing.

It's not surprising that law enforcement, an institution authoritarian in both concept and practice, would attract people who possess, shall we say, more traditional views about gender.  That also carries over to the courts, though, especially on the criminal side.  There are several reasons for that, the main one being that law, and especially the criminal law, is conservative in nature.  Like law enforcement, the role of the criminal courts is to preserve law and order, and you don't get much more conservative than that.  Again, it's to be expected that a conservative institution would have a more traditional view of gender roles.

And it does.  I know a number of male lawyers, prosecutors and defense attorneys, who have difficulty dealing with a female counterpart.  Criminal law is the adversary system on steroids, the old bromide about the man being "aggressive" while the female is simply "bitchy" carries over, and if you spend a morning in the Justice Center, you can see that being played out at least a half dozen times.

But the times, they are a'changin.'  When I started practicing, of the 34 judges on the Common Pleas Court, only two were female; now, more than a third are.  Half the judges on the 8th District are woman, and so is a majority of the Ohio Supreme Court, and all five judges in the 9th District.

A good thing, too.  Keep in mind that there was a "Jewish seat" on the United States Supreme Court 65 years before Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman to be appointed.

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