Document 13: Letter Submitted for the Hearing, National Association of Women Judges, Prepared Statement. Senate Hearing 103-51, 5 November 1993. Hearing before the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives. Serial No. 51.

Introduction

        Judith Billings, Judge of the Utah Court of Appeals and President of the National Association of Women Judges, submitted a statement to express the organization's support of the civil rights provision of the Violence Against Women Act. Created in 1979, the National Association of Women Judges became the first national judicial organization to endorse the Violence Against Women Act.

National Association of Women Judges

UNITED STATES HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON CIVIL AND CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT OF 1993
TITLE V "CIVIL RIGHTS"
November 15, 1993

Statement of the Honorable Judith Billings, President of the National Association of Women Judges

        I am Judith Billings, Judge of the Utah Court of Appeals and current President of the National Association of Women Judges. On behalf of the National Association of Women Judges, I am pleased to submit this statement to express our organization's support of the civil rights provision of the Violence Against Women Act of 1993.

        We are an organization created in 1979 and dedicated to the improvement of the administration of justice in both the state and federal courts. Our organization now includes approximately 1,000 judges at all levels of the state and federal judiciary. The association includes both men and women of all races and ethnic backgrounds.

        The goals of the Violence Against Women Act are among the most important goals of the National Association of Women Judges, which is committed to taking action to diminish violence against women and eliminate the harmful effects of gender bias in our courts. Our organization works for promoting cooperation between state and federal judges, all of whom need to respond to the problems of violence facing women across the country. The NAWJ was the first national judicial organisation to endorse the Violence Against Women Act, and we did so by resolution adopted at our annual meeting in October 1992. The NAWJ voiced its support for all the aims of the Act, including the creation of a federal remedy for those whose civil rights have been violated by violent attacks motivated by the victim's gender. The NAWJ is especially sensitive to the need for Congress to recognize the problem of violence against women in order to complement the over increasing work load of state courts in areas of traditional state court concern in criminal, personal injury and domestic relations law.

        The civil rights provision you are considering include a number of measures which the NAWJ believes help ensure this complementary role, and help avoid the risk of overloading the federal courts with disputes that fall within traditional state court functions. The provisions in the Bill which help accomplish this include (1) limited the actionable crimes of violence to felonies; (2) excluding domestic relations matters, including custody, and dissolution property settlements; (3) providing for concurrent jurisdiction in federal and state courts coupled with the express limitation that actions brought in state court may not be removed to federal court; (4) limiting the actionable conduct to crimes against a person rather than property; and (5) excluding random acts of violence unrelated to the gender while limiting the federal remedy to those cases in which some gender based animus can be demonstrated.

        The National Associated of Women Judges believes that the creation of a federal civil rights remedy will provide needed congressional recognition that gender based violence is a national problem. The specific provision before you help achieve this without interfering with the administration of justice in either the state or federal courts.

        The civil rights provisions are but a part of an act designed to help combat violence against women and eliminate bias on the basis of gender in our courts. These are important goals of the National Association of Women Judges and we urge the passage of this legislation.

                                                                            Judith M. Billings
JMB/hh                                                               Utah Court of Appeals

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