Topeka Repeals Domestic Violence Law

Via the NYTFacing Cuts, a City Repeals Its Domestic Violence Law:

Three arms of government, all ostensibly representing the same people, have been at an impasse over who should be responsible for — and pay for — prosecuting people accused of misdemeanor cases of domestic violence.

City leaders had blamed the Shawnee County district attorney for handing off such cases to the city without warning. The district attorney, in turn, said he was forced to not prosecute any misdemeanors and to focus on felonies because the County Commission cut his budget. And county leaders accused the district attorney of using abused women as pawns to negotiate more money for his office.

After both sides dug in, the dispute came to a head Tuesday night.

By a vote of 7 to 3, the City Council repealed the local law that makes domestic violence a crime.

The goal here is to force the county to prosecute the crimes, as the state law remains in force.  The ploy appears to have worked.  Of course, since the county itself was seeking not to prosecute those crimes within the city as a means of saving money, one has to wonder how well these crimes will be addressed.

This is all rather unfortunate  , as the protecting the vulnerable should be one of the fundamental tasks of government.

Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Loviatar says:


    I have to disagree with this comment

    as the protecting the vulnerable should be one of the fundamental tasks of government

    As Doug Mataconis has so publicly and repeatedly stated the fundamental task of government is to lower his taxes. In light of that, I would ask that you stop trying to muddy the waters by suggesting government has any other fundamental tasks such as protecting its vulnerable citizens.

  2. Hey Norm says:

    Small government means small justice.

  3. David M says:

    I think a comparison of what they have decided to continue prosecuting would be useful to get a better feel for how bad this is.

  4. lunaticllama says:

    @David M: My understanding is they have decided to prioritize gang activity and homicides.

    Maybe conservatives should stop trying to defund government. It’s sort of hard to build public infrastructure and provide law & order services (crime fighting & a competent justice system) with nothing. Conservatives should state whether they want to live in a world where such things as a judge and basic security from violence must be bought, or whether it’s fair to tax to provide such services.

  5. John Burgess says:

    Or perhaps government could make better choices as it prioritizes its spending? Radical idea, I know!!

    Wonder what Topeka might have been spending money on that wasn’t really that high up on the list of things that a) need to be done and b) need to be done by government? Bike trails? Parking garages? Black-hole highway projects?

  6. Hey Norm says:

    It’s Kansas…they probably spent all their money harassing Planned Parenthood.

  7. A voice from another precinct says:

    @lunaticllama: I think that conservatives have stated very clearly where they stand on what kind of a world that they want to live in. During her run for office, Sharon Angle expressed the idea that she was tired of government that “taxes her to pay for thing that she doesn’t need and can’t use.” Conservatives continually use Objectivism’s idea of taxes as confiscation as a rationale for their philosophy. Conservatives, essentially, want to live in a world where they are free of concern over the problems and needs of people who aren’t named (insert your own name here).

    I can imagine Sharon Angle at this minute thinking to herself “if women didn’t hook up with men who are violent and abusive, we wouldn’t need any of these silly domestic violence laws. It’s their own fault that they’re getting beaten up; let them stew in their own juices.”

    “This is all rather unfortunate , as the protecting the vulnerable should be one of the fundamental tasks of government.” Anymore, Dr. Taylor, I’m not so sure–at least not as far as conservatives are concerned. (Doug, are you listening?)

  8. KansasMom says:

    @Hey Norm: At the state level, you are exactly right. Hell we’ve hired the Koch brothers favorite law firm to handle the Planned Parenthood prosecutions, apparently our attorney general is in incompetent or something.

    The county DA said he will not prosecute any misdemeanor that take place in Topeka, by far the largest population center in the county, instead leaving all misdemeanors to the city. The city didn’t choose to decriminalize misdemeanor marijuana possession though, they are placing all of the budget squabble on the backs of vulnerable women (and yes, men) and children.

    The DA will have to prosecute anyway, state law trumps city ordinances after all, but it just another reason why those of us who live in Kansas and love living in Kansas, would rather we never make the national news.

  9. Jay Tea says:

    OK, I see this comment thread is seriously deficient in both clues and reality, so I better jump in.

    Your typical conservative is very much a “tough on crime” sort. Domestic violence is essentially bullying carried to an extreme, and I very much like laws against it. I have some quibbles with certain aspects of how it’s sometimes carried out, but I generally support the perpetrators having the book (and other things, preferably heavy and pointy) thrown at them.

    In this case, I’d be willing to wager that an outside party could take the amount the prosecutions cost, go through the budgets of both city and county, and find enough sacred cows to gore (pardon the mixed metaphor) for both parties to handle it — or split it between the two. What seems to have happened was one side ran a little short of money, said “they’ll cover this — it’ll still get done, but it’ll be off our books” and now both sides want the other to pay. It’s not about ideology, but short-sighted budgeting and piss-poor priorities.

    I do have to admit, though, that there is a part of me that is saying “you know what? Maybe we are wasting too much money prosecuting and punishing these cases. Let’s just get a posse together and have them beat the living snot out of the abusers. Quicker, cheaper, and probably better at preventing recidivism.”

    Of course, as “domestic violence” is becoming more and more a co-ed sport, we’ll need a suitably diverse posse to administer the justice…


  10. Hey Norm says:

    Yeah JTea…conservatives are real tough on crime…which is why W. and Dick are currently serving time for war crimes.
    If conservatives were for even half the things they say they are for this country wouldn’t be so f’ed up right now.
    Tough on crime…give me a break.

  11. Jay Tea says:

    @Hey Norm: Just because we don’t believe in criminalizing politics, Norm, doesn’t mean squat. And I presume you’re calling for Obama to be indicted over his little Libyan adventure and the assassination of American citizens? As well as keeping Gitmo open?

    Check your reality, Norm. It ain’t liberals who most often call for harsher criminal penalties.

    And you ran away from the “Joe The Plumber” thread without ever elaborating how preferring to go by one’s middle name constitutes “lying.”


  12. An Interested Party says:

    Just because we don’t believe in criminalizing politics…

    Hahahahahaha…the things that some people write with a straight face…

  13. Jay Tea says:

    @An Interested Party: Do you even understand what “criminalizing politics” means? And just what it could do? Did you even READ past that point and see the examples I cited?


  14. george says:

    Actually, I’m not sure you could make a reasonable case for arresting Bush and Cheney for war crimes which didn’t also catch Obama – and Clinton before him for what happened in Serbia.

    Though you could argue that sitting presidents have immunity, and so you’d have to wait for Obama until either 2013 or 2017, depending upon how the election goes.

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @george: Actually, I’m not sure you could make a reasonable case for arresting Bush and Cheney for war crimes which didn’t also catch Obama – and Clinton before him for what happened in Serbia.

    How clueless and myopic does one have to be to write this kind of drivel? I reply with a single word:


  16. Jay Tea says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: So, you get to select which crimes are prosecuted? Nice selective prosecution there.

    Three terrorists got their heads soaked? Obama and Clinton started wars in direct violation of the War Powers resolution that did a lot worse to a lot more people. I’d wager American citizens Anwar Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan would have preferred being waterboarded instead of being blowed to hell without benefit of trial.

    Come on, Ozark. Show just the slightest bit of consistency and demand Obama be impeached for ordering the assassination of American citizens who were never charged with any crimes, let alone convicted.


  17. WR says:

    @Jay Tea: Jay Tea’s all tough on crime and stuff… except if there’s someone he doesn’t like, then he thinks a mob (of other people) should attack him physically.

    So in short — if someone Jay doesn’t like commits assault, it’s crime and he’s tough on it. If someone is accused of a crime, then he should be lyched by a mob, and that’s not a crime, because Jay says it’s okay.

    Is everyone in the Republican party this dumb, or is it just Jay?

  18. WR says:

    @Jay Tea: And you ran away from the Joe the Plumber thread without ever explaining why Obama was wrong when he said that businesses do better if customers have money to spend on their services.

  19. Jay Tea says:

    @WR: You obviously haven’t read it, idiot. Let me repeat my final comment:

    Read the whole discussion, you frothing dolt.

    The whole point of the discussion was Obama’s tax plans.

    Really, go back to your kennel, lickspittle. I didn’t think it possible, but you’re actually embarrassing yourself.

    And now you’re embarrassing yourself even more.


  20. @Jay Tea: I must confess, it always enhances your argument when you call names.


  21. Jay Tea says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I find it brings that certain zest, that je ne sais quoi, that would otherwise be lacking in the conversation.

    Besides, I claim the WR exception: the cretin has no opinions of his own. He either parrots who he considers the “cool kids” or automatically takes the side opposing me.


  22. Jay Tea says:

    Oh, and for those just joining us: according to the leftists above, right-wingers are notoriously soft on criminals AND favor violent vigilante justice.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled liberal circle jerk.


  23. Boyd says:

    All the useless partisan sniping (from both sides) in this comment thread aside (really, guys, you haven’t been able to change anyone’s mind on these unrelated topics the previous million times you’ve made exactly the same argument, so what makes you think you’re going to accomplish that on the 1,000,001st try?), I have to wonder why a city has an ordinance against an activity that is already criminalized by state law. I mean, I know it happens all the time, but it just seems to me that municipalities should focus on other things if the state’s got something covered already.

    I’m probably too focused on a level of efficiency that governments can’t reasonably achieve.

  24. @Boyd: I think it speaks to the complex overlapping jurisdictions that exist in our law enforcement system and the fact that different layers of government (in this case state, county and municipal) have differing levels of resources and emphases.

    For example: we tend to expect the city police to focus on activities within the city limits and for the county law enforcement to focus on the spaces between said municipalities.

  25. Boyd says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: That would make sense from a geographical jurisdiction standpoint, but I don’t think that entirely describes the situation. Presumably from this example, a municipality can’t pursue a crime in violation of a state statute. Otherwise, why would they need to have a local ordinance against the same activity?

    Also, the severity of the crime is much more of a driver, it seems to me, than just geography. Cities never, AFAIK, pursue charges such as kidnapping, rape or murder, for example, even when the crimes occur within their geographical boundaries.

  26. Jay Tea says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Good lord, actual reason? Are you two insane?

    But yeah, I think you’re right. There’s enough overlap in the system that somebody figured they could slack off and let another pick up the slack, and the one who was stuck didn’t care for it, so they’re pushing back. They could have picked a better topic for their turf struggle,


  27. WR says:

    @Jay Tea: I’ve got to say that if this were true, I’d be safe. Automatically taking the opposite position from you would pretty much mean that I was right 100% of the time…

  28. Tlaloc says:

    Kansas has always been a messed up place. At least as recently as this last decade they still had anti-sodomy laws on the books (if rarely ever invoked) and of course they’ve been a central front of anti-abortion agitation and violence (most recently Dr. Tiller’s murder in a church for bonus irony points).

  29. An Interested Party says:

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled liberal circle jerk.

    Such biting commentary from someone who masturbates conservative gobbledygook around here on a regular basis…