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Columbia Missourian

GUEST COMMENTARY: Missouri women not receiving equal protections

By Stephen Wyse
November 21, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST

Women in Missouri were denied equal protection of the law by the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 15, 2013. In the case of Snider-Carpenter, et. al v. City of Dixon, et al 13-5780, the Supreme Court left intact an absurd federal court precedent that a landlord could sexually assault his female tenants, demand sex in lieu of rent and try to buy the teenage daughter of a tenant as a new sex slave without violating the law or the rights of these women. The District Court stated, “It is undisputed that, …. Ron Mayo offered $100,000.00 and a bank account for her daughter.”

This precedent from within the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals conflicts with the majority of federal courts from Illinois to New York and from Colorado to California that have consistently protected women from this type of predatory exploitation. But a few dysfunctional federal courts of appeal have perverted the application of federal law, leaving citizens of some states lesser Americans in the eyes of the law.

Did the Snider-Carpenter precedent from a federal court in Missouri, which is within the 8th Circuit, influence the Maryville prosecutor when he denied equal protection of the law to a teenage girl who was drugged and raped?

The specific perversions of the law in the Snider-Carpenter case didn’t stop with the federal court's approval of sexual exploitation. The opinion also found that after Dixon police prohibited landlord Ron Mayo from forcibly (and illegally) evicting an apartment tenant, Mayo and his wife were able the very next morning to illegally “buy” a “motel license” from the Dixon Police Department that police then used to evict the tenant under threat of arrest as a “motel guest.” That tenant had previously been assaulted by Mayo after refusing his sexual demands.

In this state, only the Missouri Department of Health can issue a motel license, and only after a safety inspection. The federal district court improperly found that the Dixon police were immune from lawsuits because their violations of clearly established law were unintentional. There are 11 federal circuit courts of appeal that govern over several states. Three appear to have gone rogue: rogue in that they fail to follow and often simply ignore the on-point rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Citizens of Missouri live under the rule of one such rogue circuit, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. As such, they are lesser citizens of the United States because their federal rights and protections are denied.

This outrage correlates with the decision by Congress in the 1980s to give the U.S. Supreme Court nearly absolute discretion to decide which cases it will hear. Now that disputes between the federal circuit courts of appeal can be left unresolved, an erosion of judicial accountability has metastasized into a legal cancer.

Renowned legal scholar and 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner said this about the high court, “Well, I don’t like the Supreme Court. I don’t think it’s a real court. I think of it as basically … it’s like a House of Lords. It’s a quasi-political body. President, Senate, House of Representatives, Supreme Court. It’s very political. And they decide which cases to hear, which doesn’t strike me as something judges should do.”

In Missouri, women who are sexually assaulted by their landlord, coerced into guarding his on-site concubine and terrorized by his descriptions of sexual fantasies involving them and their friends are denied legal protection from sexual predators. This Court in a sua sponte summary judgment found that the rights of these women were not violated, and it dismissed their pursuit of justice with prejudice. The Supreme Court, in turn, denied these women equal protection.

Cynics could argue that this may be the institutional continuation of the Republican War on Women being fought in legislatures nationwide. It's worth noting that the Maryville prosecutor is a Republican. In the Snider-Carpenter case, the district judge and all the 8th Circuit judges were Republican appointees. So are a majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices.

If my clients in the Snider-Carpenter case had lived within the 6th, 7th, or 9th Circuits of the United States Court of Appeals, their rights under the federal Fair Housing and/or Civil Rights acts would have been protected. Rather, a rogue court's precedent declaring that women in Missouri may be considered the sexual property of their landlord stands undisturbed.

Stephen Wyse is an attorney and member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. He also has been a contributing columnist to the Huffington Post on legal affairs. 


If you cannot see the full court opinion as an embedded document, click here to view it in Document Cloud.