According to the Justice Department, two million restraining orders are issued each year in the United States. The vast majority of these are related to domestic violence allegations, yet research shows that these orders often do not even involve an accusation of actual violence. Usually all that’s needed to obtain an order is a claim that the person to be restrained “acted in a way that scared me or was “verbally abusive what’s known as “shout at your spouse, lose your house.
Such orders are generally done ex parte, without the accused’s knowledge and with no opportunity afforded for him to defend himself. When an order is issued, the man is booted out of his own home and can even be jailed if he tries to contact his own children. In this way divorcing women get their husbands out of their houses, and position themselves as their children’s sole caretakers, which helps them win custody.
A restrained person does have the opportunity to contest the orders at a later hearing. However, these proceedings are often just a formality for which little time is generally allotted, and the evidence standard is low.
Now a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling has done away with even the pretense of meaningful judicial oversight to these orders. According to After-Hours E-Filing Allowed for Domestic Violence Cases, TROs (New Jersey Law Journal, 7/24/07), all that is now needed for a restraining order is for the woman to give testimony over the phone to an on-call judge. The judge then issues the order electronically so it’s immediately enforceable.
In other words, all a woman has to do is pretend to be frightened over the phone and her husband gets booted out of his own home and will be arrested if he tries to visit or call his own children.
An excellent example of the assemblyline manner in which orders of protection are issued is the case of TV host David Letterman. In December 2005, a judge granted a temporary restraining order against Letterman to a woman who had never met Letterman, but who claimed that he had mentally harassed her through his TV broadcasts.
Reflecting the mentality of too many judges, the judge who issued the order explained, “If [applicants] make a proper pleading, then I grant it”–as if what matters is not the accused’s guilt or innocence, but instead whether the accuser knows how to fill out a form properly.
After-Hours E-Filing Allowed for Domestic Violence Cases, TROs
By Charles Toutant
New Jersey Law Journal, 7/24/07
Starting immediately, domestic violence complaints in New Jersey may be filed electronically, and temporary restraining orders obtained, on nights and weekends, when the courts are closed.
The state Supreme Court announced Monday the statewide expansion of a pilot program known as E-TRO, which began in 2002 and is used in 38 municipalities.
E-TRO calls for relaxation of certain court rules to allow electronic signatures of judges and complainants on nights and weekends, and it allows for complaints to appear immediately on court databases. (more.)
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