time’s up and domestic violence
Partnering with TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund
Since February 2018, Jenner & Block has partnered with the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund to represent individuals regarding the legal ramifications of speaking out publicly about workplace harassment. The Fund, which is housed at and administered by the National Women’s Law Center Fund, was created to help survivors of sexual harassment and retaliation in all industries—especially low-income women and people of color.
Our work with TIME’S UP has included counseling on the implications of non-disclosure agreements, representation in connection with threatened defamation lawsuits and other similar claims, and advice on navigating media attention and reputational risk. Importantly, our clients referred through TIME’S UP uniformly find themselves outmatched by their alleged harassers in terms of resources and power dynamics within their respective industries. Many have been threatened with legal action after attempting to report harassment anonymously in the hope of preventing the pattern of harassment from being repeated, only to be pulled into the spotlight by media attention or by the individuals whose conduct was the subject of their complaints.
Among many others, Partners Amanda Amert, Christine Bowman, Precious Jacobs, Laura MacDonald and Alison Stein as well as Law Clerk Susanna Evarts have worked on these challenging and rewarding matters with a team of associates, summer associates, staff attorneys, paralegals and project assistants that has included Esmeralda Bako, Tali Leinwand, Jenna Bressel, Angelina Smith, Will Wilder and Danielle Nicholson.
time’s up and domestic violence
Removing Improperly Imposed Restraining Order
Jenner & Block represented a pro bono client in removing an improperly imposed restraining order against her. Our client, M.C., had presented evidence to a judge in Tulare County Superior Court in California that her ex-husband had a history of inflicting serious, and in some cases life-threatening, physical abuse on her.
The trial court nevertheless granted mutual restraining orders against both M.C. and her ex-husband, based on an April 2017 incident in which M.C. went to her ex-husband’s home to pick up their two minor children. The encounter became violent; M.C.’s ex-husband grabbed her by the neck and tried to drag her around the house, until she bit him and broke free. As she fled the house, she threw a lamp that she had picked up inside at an unoccupied car in the driveway. Finding that both parties “acted primarily as aggressor,” the judge imposed mutual restraining orders against both parties. Despite finding that acts of abuse had occurred, the trial court also maintained a joint custody order of the parties’ two children.
But on September 26, 2018, the Fifth District Court of Appeal lifted the restraining order against M.C. and reversed the joint custody order. In the opinion authored by Justice Jennifer R. S. Detjen, the Court of Appeal noted that M.C. violated no order in going to her ex-husband’s home and that there was no finding that she placed him in fear or otherwise harassed him. The Court of Appeal further found that her conduct was a direct response to abuse at the hands of her ex-husband and occurred because she was fleeing the location where that abuse occurred. Additionally, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court had failed to apply the presumption against granting an abuser joint custody of the children as required by law.
The team representing M.C. included Partners Kirsten Hicks Spira and AnnaMarie Van Hoesen, who argued the case in front of the appellate court. Our firm was co-counsel with Anya Emerson, Jennafer Dorfman Wagner, Cory Hernandez and Erin Smith of the Family Violence Appellate Project and Jeneé Barnes of Central California Legal Services.