Trickle-Down Empowerment: How The New York State Legislature Can Empower Attorneys Who Advocate For Victims of Domestic Violence by Incorporating Social Science Findings When Justifying New Legislation

By Heath Hardman, Albany Government Law Review       

I. Introduction

The fields of social science and psychology continue to make advances in human understanding, and courts sometimes make use of this information.[1]  But how can attorneys broaden their access to this information when representing victims of domestic violence?  One way is by requesting that a court take judicial notice of certain legislative facts concerning domestic violence.  While an attorney can support this request by citing scholarly sources, the court, in its discretion, need not grant the request.[2]  Citing legislative materials, such as sponsor’s memos, letters and statements of support, and bill jackets may increase an attorney’s chances of moving a court to take judicial notice of a legislative fact.[3]  After all, if the legislature cites the fact as part of its justification in enacting a law, and the court is required to enforce the law, surely the fact is compelling.  Indeed, some courts have in fact cited the legislature’s reliance on certain facts when taking judicial notice of legislative facts or relying on them for decision making.[4]

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