Macias Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed.
The $15 million federal civil rights case of Estate of María
Teresa Macias vs. Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Ihde (Case No. C 96
3658 SI) claims that the Sheriff's Department repeatedly denied
María Teresa Macias' constitutional right to equal protection
in its response to Teresa's more than 20 calls for help before she
was finally murdered by her physically and sexually violent husband.
The suit claims that the Sheriff's Department discriminated against
Teresa as a woman, a Latina, and as a victim of violence against
women by never once arresting or even citing her husband despite
a county mandate to do so, by failing to write reports, failing
to investigate, ignoring evidence, and discouraging Teresa from
Macias Case Dismissed.
Federal District Court Judge Lowell Jensen dismissed the Macias
case siding with Sonoma County Sheriff's Department arguments
that police cannot be held responsible for another person's violence.
This dismissal was in line with previous legal precedent which
has consistently denied women legal remedy when police ignore
women's pleas for help with domestic and sexual violence. The
Macias family appealed Judge Jensen's dismissal to the 9th Circuit
Court of Appeals.
2000: Unanimous Landmark Appellate Decision Declares Women's Constitutional
Right to Non-Discriminatory Police Protection.
In the most unambiguous language to date, the 9th Circuit Court
of Appeals unanimously declared women's constitutional right to
non-discriminatory police protection and provided women a constitutional
basis for holding police accountable for inferior police protection.
The 9th Circuit Court decision also reversed Judge Jensen's dismissal
and remanded the case back to Federal District Court for trial.
Regardless of the outcome of the trial in district court, this
overarching, historic decision laid down by the 9th Circuit Court
will remain binding law throughout the nine western states and
two U.S. territories of the 9th Judicial District.
District Court Judge Jensen Recuses Himself from
Following the 9th Circuit Appellate Court decision when Judge
Jensen delayed new action on the case, Macias Attorney Rick Seltzer
requested that Jensen recuse himself, citing the judge's overwhelming
prejudice against the case. Judge Jensen complied. U.S. District
Court Judge Susan Illston was then chosen by an automatic assignment
process to replace Jensen.
and 11, 2001: Judge Illston Sets Trial Date and Rules in Macias'
Favor on Key Case Issues.
In her first set of rulings on the Macias case, Judge Susan Illston
set an April 22, 2002 trial date (later postponed to June 17).
In addition, she declared that Judge Jensen's earlier ruling that
police can't be held responsible for Macias' murder is null and
void. Illston also ruled that the Macias family can ask money
damages for Teresa's pain and suffering before her death resulting
from Sheriff's denial of equal protection.
Judge Illston's June 11th rulings open the door to the possible
finding that Sonoma County Sheriff's conduct was, indeed, a significant
cause of the murder of María Teresa Macias. The second
part of her ruling opens legal and financial remedy to all victims
of violence against women who receive inferior police response,
even if it didn't end in murder. These women, too, can hold police
accountable for denying their constitutional rights.
2002: Judge Illston Denies Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Case
on Summary Judgment.
Sweeping away the final pre-trial hurdle, Judge Illston ruled against
motions to dismiss the case filed by the County of Sonoma and by
ex-Deputy Mark Lopez, an individually named defendant.
2002: Macias Trial Begins.
by Marie De Santis, Women's Justice Center.)