Stories of Restraining Order (209A) Abuse; Victories and losses.

DATE: 11/14/97 5:49 PM

Dear Ray:

Last May I called you and asked for your help regarding a friend of mine who had been arrested for supposedly violating a restraining order. First, I want to thank you for your help, and secondly, I would like to share some very good news with you. His trial started on Wednesday and ended Thursday afternoon. I am very pleased to tell you that the jury found him innocent. This particular (not to mention fair and wonderful) jury stood on the side of a father looking out for the best interest of his children.

He would not have prevailed without the expert help of his attorney. In a perfect world, all attorneys would exhibit the same high standards of professional excellence that this man exhibited. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world, and that is why most of us, (even those in the legal profession) do not hold the majority of attorneys in the best regard. Thankfully, this attorney has restored my faith in the profession and in doing so in the legal system as well. There are many good "men and women" out there who are willing to do their very best for their client, and they should be applauded. His attorney, fortunately, is an attorney of the highest caliber, and we were very lucky and privileged to have had him on (and at) his side throughout this whole ugly, scary, and future threatening ordeal.

If I could give anyone any advice about 209A's, it would be this. Restraining Orders should be taken very seriously. The consequences of violating (or being accused of violating) a protective order are grim. He won this case, but it was never cut and dry. The very real threat of imprisonment and conviction never disappeared. Even though he was found innocent of the charges brought against him, he was unable to see his children for more than six months, and this was probably the worst punishment of all.

Again, I thank you for your help and commend you for the work you are doing. 209A's are there for women (or men) that need them. They never should be abused in order to gain advantage in a divorce case. I've said this before, and I'll say it again. The only women who will be hurt are the women who need the 209A system in place. They need to be able to be protected from abuse and they need to be able to come forward and be protected by the court system without fear or reprisal. If Judges don't take the initiative to protect "everyone" who comes into their court rooms, whether it be the abused or the unjustly accused, on an individual case-by-case basis, the system will eventually be challenged as unconstitutional. If attorneys (some not all) continue their attitudes that there is no point in arguing a 209A during a 209A hearing because the Judges are going to grant them regardless of the evidence, the system will never change. And if clients continue to allow their attorneys to waive their rights, there will never be hope for change. However, someone will come forward and challenge the unconstitutionality of a system where individuals are losing their constitutional rights to due process. In the meantime a system, that was put in place for all the good reasons, will be shut down because no one had the back bone to not let it be abused.

Finally (I promise), I'm really getting sick and tired of the woman's movement. It scares me to think that Judges are making their opinions based on public sentiment (or I should say more correctly, the squeakier wheels sentiment). There is no one out there representing my best interest. My best interests reflect that I want to be treated equally and fairly at home and in the work place, but that I want my partner and my sons to have the same rights that I do. I don't want to take over the world. I just want to live safely within it tiny constraints. I want to be law abiding, but I want the laws to be there for all of us. Is that too much to ask for? I don't want to spend the rest of my life standing outside a court room door waiting to hear whether or not an innocent man will have the right to walk out the court room doors.

Yesterday, a small battle was won, but its important for us to not lose sight of the fact that the 209A should never have been issued, allowed, nor continued. If there were safeguards to prevent this type of abuse of process, things would never have gotten this far out of control.

Kathleen A. O'Connell @MIT.EDU

The day I walked into Hampshire County probate and saw my ex-wife with a woman who had her arm around her telling her everything would be OK, was the day I discovered the battered women's advocate. This woman went on to describe to judge Dunphy, the abusive situation that existed in this marriage. I am getting tired of telling people that I have never laid a hand on this woman (7 bogus 209A's later), so I will skip that part. I approached this advocate in the hallway and demanded some information as to her role in my divorce proceedings. Having never met my ex or myself, I asked her how she could live with herself after testifying to the serious threat that I imposed on this woman’s safety. The only response I received from this advocate was "I help men too". I thanked her for her help and went in to have my visitation limited.

Steve M

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