Wendy Kaminer

Wendy Kaminer is a former senior correspondent for The American Prospect and a contributing editor at The Atlantic Monthly. She also serves on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union.

A lawyer, social critic, and former Guggenheim Fellow, she writes about law, liberty, feminism, religion, and popular culture. Her latest book is Free for All: Defending Liberty in America Today. Other books she has written include Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety; True Love Waits: Essays and Criticism; It's All the Rage: Crime and Culture; I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional: The Recovery Movement and Other Self-Help Fashions; and A Fearful Freedom: Women's Flight from Equality. Kaminer's articles and reviews have appeared in many other publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, and Newsweek, and her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio.

Before embarking on her writing career, Kaminer practiced law as a staff attorney in the New York Legal Aid Society and the New York City Mayor's Office.

Wendy Kaminer retains copyrights to all her articles.

Recent Articles

Gun Shy

Gun sales are said to have increased dramatically since September 11 -- to the bemusement of some, who point out that guns won't protect us from terrorists armed with viruses or nuclear bombs. Still, it's long been clear that many Americans feel reassured by firearms; and if you fear the civil disorder that further attacks might bring, the desire for a gun is not entirely irrational. So it's not surprising that Americans might assert their rights to own guns while they cede less controversial rights, to privacy or speech, by embracing electronic surveillance or supporting repression of dissent. But it's debatable whether an increase in gun purchases will protect people or endanger them. Armed with studies and statistics, advocates and academics on both sides of the gun debate argue about whether gun ownership deters and successfully interrupts violent crime or simply increases the chances of a particular assault becoming deadly while raising overall levels of violence. People often...

Ignorant Bliss

In the locker room, two women are discussing the war against terrorism. They agree that Attorney General John Ashcroft is right not to reveal information about the 1,000-plus people detained since September 11. The trouble is, "we're too soft" on the detainees, one opines. "No, the trouble is that a lot of people detained are innocent," I interject unwisely, explaining that only a small number of people summarily imprisoned are reported to have any connection to terrorism. The women here are unimpressed. One suggests that being imprisoned for a few months is not so terrible, even if you're innocent. Immigrants should expect as much in times like these, says the other, stressing that she's not anti-immigrant. Her own family came to the United States from Ireland, a few generations ago. I don't imagine that either of these women would march off to prison in a spurt of misplaced patriotism if the attorney general came breaking down their door. But they're clearly willing to sacrifice...

Fathers in Court

I t's often difficult for a feminist to garner much sympathy for the fathers' rights movement. At first glance it seems, at best, redundant. Fathers monopolized familial rights and power for much of our history. Nineteenth-century common law gave men the right to control and the duty to support children born in marriage, while women were left with the rights and responsibilities regarding children born out of wedlock. Women and children even derived their citizenship from male "heads" of families. (In the early 1900s, American women forfeited their citizenship when they married foreign men.) Marital rape was generally legal until the 1970s. It's not surprising that the domestic subordination of women, under law, helped fuel the nineteenth- and twentieth-century women's movements. Fortunately, feminists have enjoyed considerable success in their efforts to reform discriminatory laws governing family life and divorce. Equitable distribution laws, for example, reflect a feminist view of...

Victims Versus Suspects

In the 1960s, the Supreme Court recognized that people accused of crimes were imbued with constitutional rights, which the states were obliged to respect. In the course of a few years, the Warren Court applied the exclusionary rule to the states, prohibiting the introduction of evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment; it fashioned the Miranda warnings to protect the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and prevent coerced confessions; it required prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence; and it held that states must provide indigent defendants with lawyers at both the trial and appellate levels. These rulings are commonly and stupidly derided for elevating legal technicalities over questions of guilt: With the exception of the exclusionary rule (which is quite flexible and all too easily avoided), these "technicalities" focus precisely on the question of guilt. Coerced confessions are inherently unreliable; prosecutorial misconduct, like failure to disclose evidence...

Games Prosecutors Play

Ken Starr was no exception. Over the last 30 years, abetted by the Supreme Court, prosecutors have acquired fearsome power in the form of largely untrammeled authority and a bag of sneaky tricks.

The majority of prosecutors, police officers, and federal law enforcement agents are probably fair, ethical, and even compassionate public servants. But arrogance, self-righteousness, and a tendency to push people around are occupational hazards in law enforcement. Consider what Americans have learned in the past year. Racial profiling is common on the nation's highways and streets and in its airports. State troopers and local police routinely harass and occasionally assault black and Latino drivers and male residents of inner-city neighborhoods, while U.S. customs officials single out racial minorities for degrading strip searches. Innocent people languish for years on death row because of police or prosecutorial misconduct. People guilty of minor, nonviolent offenses, or no offenses at all, are imprisoned for years by federal prosecutors who seek convictions at all costs, misleading grand juries, intimidating witnesses, encouraging perjury by informants, and suppressing exculpatory...