ARTICLE: LITIGATING WOMEN'S RIGHTS AS HUMAN RIGHTS: THE CASE OF UNITED STATES v. LANIER
7 S. Cal. Rev. L. & Women's Stud. 329
Mary-Christine Sungaila *
In 1992, David Lanier, the elected Chancery Court judge for Dyer and Lake Counties in Tennessee and heir to his family's local political dynasty, became the first sitting judge to be convicted under 18 U.S.C. 242. 2 Section 242 provides for federal prosecution of government officials who breach the public trust by unjustly using their authority to deprive others of their constitutional rights. 3 Judge Lanier's unconstitutional abuse of power was manifested in a particularly shocking way: he sexually assaulted and raped, in his chambers, female court employees, employee applicants and litigants over whom he had continuing jurisdiction - once while wearing his judicial robe. 4 He was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison on five misdemeanor and two felony counts for his assaults on five women. 5 But the saga of Judge Lanier did not end there. Initially affirmed, his convictions were subsequently overturned upon en banc rehearing by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. 6 The majority en banc opinion concluded that federal charges under 18 U.S.C. 242 should never have been brought. 7 The court reasoned that at the time Judge Lanier committed the assaults it was not well-established that sexual assault amounted to a violation of the constitutional right to bodily integrity, and Judge Lanier therefore had no notice that his conduct amounted to a federal (as opposed to only a state) crime. 8 Supreme Court review followed, 9 and the case instantly became one of national importance. The media widely ...
Student of the law of evidence, evidence, inference, and investigation. Sometimes writes books. Sometimes writes articles. Sometimes tinkers with computer programs to support the marshaling of evidence for legal activities such as trials and pretrial discovery and investigation. And sometimes takes photographs.