How VAWA Has Turned Our Courts into Restraining Order Vending Machines

Posted on March 29, 2014


Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), our courts and police districts are awarded hefty federal grants (averaging $500,000) in return for having their officers (judges and cops) “educated” about how to respond to allegations of fear or violence.

Allegations made pursuant to the procurement of a restraining order, per the terms of these grants, aren’t to be questioned.

It’s a little known fact that qualification training for police officers is about a quarter of that required for certification to cut hair. It’s bad enough, then, that cops are licensed to act on impulse. Far worse is that judges are licensed to do so.

That’s because the belief that judges base rulings on facts is mistaken. Judges avoid this whenever possible. If principles of law (rules) authorize officers of the court to dodge making “judgment calls,” they will be dodged. Typically what a “just” ruling means is a ruling that can be justified according to the rules.

To give an example, imagine a bewildered restraining order defendant who’s been falsely accused. If s/he misses or blows his or her opportunity to defend, “claim preclusion” rules forbid him or her from having the case heard or reheard later. The facts don’t matter. The court is authorized to ignore them—and it will.

Remedial legislation has been proposed, such as Oregon House Bill 2966 (“Allows respondent against whom restraining order has been issued to request withdrawal of order based on false allegations of abuse”):

At any time after a restraining order has been issued under ORS 107.095 (1)(c) or (d), 107.716 or 107.718, and after the restraining order has been entered into the Law Enforcement Data System maintained by the Department of State Police and into the databases of the National Crime Information Center of the United States Department of Justice as required under ORS 107.720, and into any other manual or computerized database maintained by the Department of State Police for purposes of tracking restraining orders issued under ORS 107.095 (1)(c) or (d), 107.716 or 107.718, the respondent may request that the court withdraw the order on the grounds that the petition and order were based upon false allegations of abuse. The request may be made at a hearing requested under ORS 107.718 (10) or by a separate motion filed with the court by the respondent.

But as things stand, if false allegations are put over on the court, they’re put over for good.

Judicial process proceeds from rules first and facts second. Our entire system of law is based upon the principle of stare decisis, which says that what has previously been decided must be adhered to.

A restraining order, which is issued without a defendant’s even knowing about it and based on a few-minute interview between a judge and plaintiff, already represents a preliminary decision. If, on top of this influential fact, the rule impressed upon judges is that allegations aren’t to be questioned, then “decisions” to confirm restraining orders aren’t really decisions at all.

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