Wednesday, October 19, 2011

As economy worsens, societies seeks wrong answers

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As economy worsens, societies seeks wrong answers
By Jeffery M. Leving

It is always shocking to see what otherwise rational people will do when they face economic hardships.

We’ve seen an increase in bank robberies as cash-strapped individuals and families desperately find ways to pay their bills and put food on their table.

But it’s not just individuals and families making these bad choices. Everyone is feeling the pinch of the worsening economy, including local city and state governments.

It’s human nature to make choices in order to survive, even the wrong choices. In some cases, governments are looking at ways to save money by throwing out laws and services, rather than looking at ways to make those laws and services do what they were intended to do.

In Topeka, Kansas, for example, the City Council there announced it was going to stop prosecuting domestic violence cases in order to save money in their budget.

The cash-strapped city was responding to a decision by their local Shawnee County state’s attorney who said days before he could no longer afford to prosecute misdemeanor cases, including domestic violence. City officials said that it would require them to repeal the code which makes domestic battery a crime. More than 30 domestic violence cases have been dropped and 16 individuals already arrested in domestic violence cases have been released.

Tragically, the economic hardships on our society are putting the spotlight on the wrong aspects of issues that do need to be addressed.

Many laws created with good intentions to protect female victims of domestic violence are often misused to prosecute innocent men.

This is especially true in divorce and custody cases where orders of protection and false domestic battery  charges are often  used to pressure dads into unfair  custody settlements; you give up your kids or go to jail!

However, abandoning all prosecution isn't the answer either, because there are real victims of domestic violence, both male and female, many left  unprotected. And when the law responds to economic hardships but does nothing to remediate broken or abused laws, that creates an even bigger problem for everyone.

Several years ago, my secretary was murdered by her husband. We had obtained an order of protection against her husband before he fatally hit her in the head with a hammer in close proximity of a suburban police station!

I also represented a prominent lawyer who was arrested on a false charge of domestic battery. Fortunately in his case, we had access to video surveillance that cleared my client of the  false criminal charge.

Not all men are this lucky!

The solution we need is to fix what is broken, not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Fixing our broken legal system, not abandoning it, is something that all governments need to address in a serious way.
One of the steps is to impose accountability for making false domestic violence charges.

This eventually will decrease the fraud and free-up important resources for the real victims often unprotected.

Additionally, "quality assurance" through effective and competent financial management as well as ending the wasteful spending of government funding  will free-up tax dollars necessary to protect the welfare and safety of all Americans.

We need a better system of "checks and balances" to safeguard the general public against the greed whittling down our government assets.

If there is an upside to the extreme actions of the government in Topeka, Kansas, it is to look at areas where improved legal processes and laws can actually save more money than merely throwing them out.

No one benefits when domestic battery laws are tossed. But insuring that domestic violence is prosecuted fairly and properly and that it is not used as a weapon by some to pressure husbands to sacrifice more in divorces can save far more money over the long term.

If governments want to save money, they need to insure that laws are created to respond to real need in a fair and just manner and to prevent opportunities for some to exploit and misuse them.

Topeka, Kansas isn’t the only city that could find solutions to their economic challenges by reviewing their laws and identifying those that are too often abused.

(Named one of “America’s Best Lawyers” by Forbes Radio, Jeffery Leving is the author of two ground-breaking books, Fathers’ Rights and Divorce Wars. He can be reached at

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