On May 15, the Supreme Court ruled in the United States v. Morrison case that Congress was constitutionally out of bounds when it gave victims of “gender-motivated” acts a special right to sue in federal, as well as state, courts. IWF had argued in its amicus curiae brief that Congress was wasting its time-and adding to victims’ suffering-by federalizing offenses already prohibited by state laws. The Supreme Court agreed with us.
Steve Chapman, nationally syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune asked why backers of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) wanted this end-run around the Constitution. He found out from IWF. As he reported in his column, “The only reason to take the federal route, says Anita Blair, president of the Independent Women’s Forum, is that it offers a bigger payoff for [the plaintiff’s] attorneys.”
Indeed, as Anita pointed out in an Investor’s Business Daily op-ed earlier this year, VAWA is one of many federal laws that operate to the financial advantage of trial lawyers by taking traditional state tort actions and turning them into federal civil rights claims. The difference is in the damages. In state tort actions, the lawyer is usually paid a percentage of the award. This makes lawyers think twice before bringing trivial or unsupported claims in state court. Not so in federal court. There, if the plaintiff can win even one dollar in damages, her lawyers can recover their full fees, based on hourly rates.
Given that the real attacker seldom has any money, this explains why feminists have been so eager to make third parties (such as employers and school districts) liable for sexual misconduct committed on their premises. Who else is going to be able to pay the lawyers?
We think Congress should be interested in protecting victims, not lawyers. Violence does not happen in interstate commerce; it happens in streets, neighborhoods, and homes. The most effective way to protect victims of violent crime is to hold local authorities responsible for enforcing local laws.