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At Home in the Law

At Home in the Law: How the Domestic Violence Revolution Is Transforming Privacy

Jeannie Suk
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    At Home in the Law
    Book Description:

    In the past forty years, the idea of home, which is central to how the law conceives of crime, punishment, and privacy, has changed radically. Legal scholar Jeannie Suk shows how the legitimate goal of legal feminists to protect women from domestic abuse has led to a new and unexpected set of legal practices.

    Suk examines case studies of major legal developments in contemporary American law pertaining to domestic violence, self-defense, privacy, sexual autonomy, and property in order to illuminate the changing relation between home and the law. She argues that the growing legal vision that has led to the breakdown of traditional boundaries between public and private space is resulting in a substantial reduction of autonomy and privacy for both women and men.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15635-5
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-XII)
    (pp. 1-8)

    On or about September 20, 2001, Americans woke to discover that we had a “homeland” that would soon be protected by a Department of Homeland Security.¹ Being attacked on our own soil had profoundly changed America’s sense of safety and comfort in the world. Official talk of “securing our homeland” entered the language.² “Homeland” was not theretofore unknown, but commentators soon remarked on its oddness in the American lexicon. The word had a foreign, “vaguely Teutonic ring.”³ Some even called it “creepy.”⁴

    Why? Peggy Noonan, the Reagan-Bush speechwriter known for her linguistic acuity, described discomfort “any time this sort of...

    (pp. 9-34)

    Criminal law is ever expanding. It tends to seek new frontiers of liability and to bring into its ambit areas of life previously not regulated by it. Whether in the creation of new crimes, the remolding of old crimes in new contexts, or the ratcheting upward of criminal penalties, today the inclination of lawmakers and prosecutors is to make criminal law reach further and cover more terrain.¹

    This expansion has tended not only outward but inward. Traditionally, criminal law did not enter the intimate familial space of the home.² This reluctance to reach into this quintessentially private space is now...

    (pp. 35-54)

    When the state is in the home, what does it do there? This chapter focuses on the control of intimate relationships through the criminal law. I turn to a leading jurisdiction, New York County (Manhattan), that is considered to be “in the forefront of efforts to combat domestic violence,” and that has seen significant changes in its enforcement approach in the past twenty years.¹ A routine practice there in the prosecution of misdemeanor DV exemplifies the expanding criminal law control of the home: the prosecutorial use of criminal court protection orders to seek to end intimate relationships. The use of...

    (pp. 55-86)

    Self-defense is undergoing an epochal transformation. Since 2005, a broad majority of states have passed or proposed new “Castle Doctrine” laws intended to expand the right to use deadly force in self-defense.¹ These bills derive their informal name from the traditional common law castle doctrine, which grants a person attacked in his own home the right to use deadly force without trying to retreat to safety.² The new Castle Doctrine statutes were conceived and advocated by the National Rifle Association (NRA). They extend beyond the home to self-defense more broadly.³ They purport to change existing self-defense law in one or...

    (pp. 87-105)

    In this chapter, I juxtapose two cases handed down four days apart by the Supreme Court in 2004:Kelo v. City of New London¹ andTown of Castle Rock v. Gonzales.² These cases in their own ways re-flected on what it means to lose the home. They both excited significant responses associated with broad-based social movements. A key to making sense of the cases’ meanings is the legal traces of the uncanny character of the home. The uncanny is a literary term meant to capture a dreadful, horrifying feeling that occurs when the utterly familiar and comfortable (heimlich) becomes unfamiliar...

    (pp. 106-131)

    In the penultimate scene of the James Bond movieThe World Is Not Enough(1999), M (played by Judi Dench) and her team deploy a thermal-imaging satellite device to try to find Bond, who is with Dr. Christmas Jones, a nuclear physicist with whom he has just completed a mission. As they home in on Bond’s location, the screen displays a thermal image of his body lying on a bed. Then they discern an additional pair of legs in the bed. The image gets redder, signifying increasing heat. The accidental voyeurs come to realize that the thermal image is revealing...

    (pp. 132-134)

    If September 11, 2001, cast the ubiquitous concept of home in a distinctively uncanny light, the economic crisis of 2008, which began with home mortgages, portended another set of home anxieties in American national consciousness. The fear of falling, dispossession, and decline was experienced individually and collectively. Through decisions to encourage home ownership so as to transform a class of people into middle-class homeowners, the state, it seemed, had allowed the so-called homeland to be mortgaged on a foundation of indebtedness. The insecurity of world-changing crisis was no less profound than the sense after September 11 that a tradition of...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 135-196)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 197-204)