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Friday, May 30, 2008

ABA helps lawyers help domestic abuse victims

Yesterday, the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the first-degree domestic-abuse murder conviction of a man who stabbed his estranged wife 63 times. Two days earlier, the American Bar Association released a “tool” that lawyers can use to spot domestic violence.

The Minnesota case involved Moua Her and Sheng Vang, who were married in January 2000. Vang moved out of the home a year later due to “marital difficulties,” including alleged physical abuse. She eventually moved back in, but the domestic problems continued, ultimately resulting in a call to the police in March 2004. Three months later, Vang was found dead in the garage of Her’s home.

Cases like this one exemplify the tragedy of domestic abuse, but there are things lawyers can do to help.

The ABA Commission on Domestic Violence’s “Comprehensive Issue Spotting: A Tool for Civil Attorneys Representing Victims of Domestic and Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking,” is a client-centered resource to help lawyers new to representing victims of these crimes provide knowledgeable assistance to their clients. According to a press release announcing the guide, it will enable lawyers to identify and become familiar with the wide-range of legal issues facing victims, and provide well-informed legal advice and referrals.

The guide takes a two-pronged approach in addressing such critical areas as protection orders, child custody, immigration, employment and housing. First, it provides a list of questions that lawyers can use to gather information from their clients. Second, it identifies the type of help that victims need and asks lawyers to research and list the local resources for their clients.

Copies of the tool are available here via download from the commission's website.

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