Smathers v. Webb

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Determined the right to sue under VAWA's civil rights remedy for nonphysical violence (e.g. threats and harassment).

Full Case Title: 

Smathers v. Webb, 198 F.3d 247 (6th Cir. 1999)
  • Fairness in the Courts
  • Violence Against Women and Girls


  • VAWA Civil Rights Remedy
  • Authored Amicus Brief


Our Role in the Case

Legal Momenum filed an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiff, a woman who was harassed and threatened by her sister’s former employer after the plaintiff learned that the man had sexually assaulted the sister’s daughter.  The brief, joined by five other women’s rights and domestic violence organizations, addressed whether the harassment and threats constituted a “crime of violence” defined under the VAWA civil rights remedy.


The court rejected the claim for a narrow reason (specific to Tennessee law) without reaching the issue of how the civil rights remedy itself should have been analyzed. Finding that the plaintiff failed to allege a felony under Tennessee law, which the civil rights remedy requires, the Court rejected the plaintiff’s appeal.