Decline Watch: City repeals domestic violence law in budget dispute

A.G. Sulzberger reports from Topeka: 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 ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
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A.G. Sulzberger reports from Topeka:

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.

A.G. Sulzberger reports from Topeka:

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By a vote of 7 to 3, the City Council repealed the local law that makes domestic violence a crime.

Decline-o-meter: Thankfully, this doesn’t actually mean domestic violence has been decriminalized in Topeka. The move was a ploy to force the District Attorney to prosecute the offenses, which remain illegal under Kansas State law. But it’s a scary sign of the times and highlights the fact that the prosecutor’s office has recently been cut by 10 percent at a time that the city has seen a “recent uptick in violent crime.”

Also worth a read is Michael Lewis’ new Vanity Fair dispatch from California, which makes the case that state and municipal governments are the real ticking time bomb of the crisis: 

The market for municipal bonds, unlike the market for U.S. government bonds, spooked easily. American cities and states were susceptible to the same cycle of doom that had forced Greece to seek help from the International Monetary Fund. 

Lewis’ piece sketches out what this will mean for public-safety services like police and firefighting in debt-wracked cities like Vallejo. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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