By O.Kay Henderson
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden proposes creation of a new "army" of 100,000 volunteer lawyers to shepherd victims of domestic violence through the court system.
"We've got to let these young lawyers and not-so-young lawyers know how they can help," Biden said during a speech in Des Moines, then he began rapping his knuckles on the lectern. "...I do not want one woman brutalized going through the sytem and rebrutalized by the system."
Biden believes there are an "awful lot of enthusiastic young lawyers" who would jump at the chance to serve. "I want to believe that there's a wealth of untapped volunteerism out there in the legal community," Biden says. "Most of the young women and men that I know coming out of law school -- they want to be for something....They want to make a difference."
Biden, a U.S. Senator from Delaware, was a chief sponsor of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. He proposes a review of how every state's legal system handles domestic violence cases as well as this new effort to recruit and train volunteer lawyers who'd help domestic violence victims navigate the court system.
"What I'm trying to do today is I'm trying to set up a network so that not only when the woman calls, not only when the woman reports the crime, not only when she makes that break does she has shelter, but she has someone who knows the law who will literally guide her through every single step," Biden says.
Biden made his comments this morning to a crowd of about 30, many of whom work with battered women. Mary Kennedy of Des Moines, a volunteer who helps children through the court system when their parents are accused of abuse or neglect, interrupted Biden's comments at one point asking when the crowd could applaud his idea. Kennedy compared Biden's proposal of a volunteer corps of lawyers to the Peace Corps.
"This is so exciting to me because that would mean that if some gal got smacked into unconsciousness or just plain smacked, they could call a mentor -- someone like me -- that would go there and be her defense through the system, through the courts, etcetera," Kennedy said after Biden's speech.
Biden said while he feels passionate about the issue of domestic violence, no one in his immediate family has been touched by such violence in the home. Biden credited his father's repeated admonition that "it takes a small man to hit a small child" with helping to form his belief that no man should ever batter a woman or a child.