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April 21, 2021 Feature

The Importance of Judges Identifying Trafficking Victims

By Judge Elizabeth R. Finn (Ret.)

More than four decades ago, when I was first appointed a municipal court judge, there were certain areas in my city known for prostitution events. The police would arrest primarily women for prostitution and periodically set up “stings” to arrest the “johns.” Persons convicted of prostitution received a mandatory jail sentence. Judges had little to no discretion. It is only in about the last 10 years that society and lawmakers have recognized many of the defendants charged with prostitution, primarily women, were victims who had been trafficked. The revolving door of mandatory sentencing for prostitution was recognized as being ineffective for the benefit of society as well as for the individuals appearing before the court.

Laws began to change, and police, prosecutors, and judges needed to be educated on the effects of human trafficking, and mandatory jail sentences were supplemented or replaced by services identified to help victims recover. These dramatic events in how human trafficking is approached warrant its inclusion as the main topic for this Judges’ Journal issue. It has become clearer that judges handling criminal, domestic, or juvenile matters may have a docket involving a human trafficking victim who is not readily identified as such.

It is my hope that this series of articles will help judges properly identify and help these hidden victims. The labor aspect of human trafficking requires expertise and creativity in addressing convicted trafficking victims. The subject of intimate partner sexual violence may be the most challenging one for an individual to acknowledge in the context of a relationship. Instances of intimate partner sexual abuse are still the most under-reported type of domestic violence. On protective order petitions, frequently the sexual assault aspect of the relationship is not written down but might be brought forth from an advocate or an educated judge realizing something more had occurred to justify issuing a protective order.

This edition of The Judges’ Journal addresses the diverse aspects of sexual assault and domestic violence. Many of these topics are emerging, emotional issues and could be considered as advocacy. Our intent is to expose judges to new concepts while not necessarily endorsing the opinions of the authors.

Hon. Virginia Kendall, a district court judge in the Northern District of Illinois and an author and professor on the subject of human trafficking, co-authored with Christi Wigle, the CEO and co-founder of United Against Slavery, the insightful article about courts traumatizing sex and labor trafficking survivors. Hon. Pamila J. Brown, a state trial court judge in Howard County, Maryland, and former chair of the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, addresses the disparate impact of human trafficking on Black girls and women. Sexual assault in the military has been in the news for nearly a decade now. Col. Linda Strite Murnane (Ret.) covers the issues with jurisdiction of federal law and military law and the impact on military sexual assault survivors. Lynn Hecht Schafran, director of Legal Momentum’s National Judicial Education Program, long recognized as an expert in the field of intimate partner sexual violence, covers a multitude of issues and barriers for these sexual assault victims who are often trafficked by those who claim to love them. In terms of prosecuting the complicated subject matter of human trafficking, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan and specialized prosecutor Wendy Patrick address “Fighting Modern-Day Slavery: Justice in Human Trafficking Cases Requires a Victim-Centered Approach.” Kelsey Becker writes about issues with campus sexual assault cases. To turn a new page, attorney Nadeem A. Bezar covers the liability of rideshare companies for their lack of clarity in addressing their role in human trafficking. He also presents a new approach to holding rideshare companies liable for their role in facilitating human trafficking. Judge Stephanie Domitrovich shares another opinion about liability. Lastly, Hon. Herbert B. Dixon Jr. (Ret.) entertains us with his wizardly knowledge of technology while Marla N. Greenstein alerts us all to ethical issues.

It has been my honor to serve as the editor of this issue. The work of the dedicated authors on the complicated and intricate issues of human trafficking and sexual assault is dramatic and enlightening. All of us in the justice system and society benefit from their creative solutions to institutionalized incorrect approaches to these complicated issues.

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By Judge Elizabeth R. Finn (Ret.)

Hon. Elizabeth R. Finn is a former presiding judge in Phoenix, Arizona.