“Defend Our Constitutional Rights”: Anne’s Proposal to Redress Restraining Order Injustice

Posted on August 27, 2015


Below is a proposition by a 74-year-old California woman, Anne Copeland, who’s earning a degree in criminal justice administration. Anne alleges that accusations against her made in a restraining order petition were trumped up, and has reported being taunted and terrorized by her accusers, who were her neighbors. She also reports she’s been prohibited from performing volunteer work as a consequence of the court’s order and that it has necessitated that she pack up and move away from her accusers to gain relief from their abuse, which the order against her in essence authorized.

She urges a course of remedial action.

Some prefatory remarks from the blog’s author: Restraining orders were enacted into law pre-Internet. No one considered in the ’80s that they could be abused. No one considered that “obscure court records” would soon be talked about from one end of the planet to the other; that they could be “scanned,” “uploaded,” and conveniently distributed by “email”; or that they would be accessed by employers. No one considered that there would be “public registries” (in cases that anyone with an “Internet connection” could consult). No one imagined that the very phrase restraining order would come to be associated with the savage imagery that “the Internet” is awash with. “Restraining orders” were supposed to stop wife-batterers. Today, they may be approved to quiet any complaint, however actually innocuous the alleged behavior is. Though reported figures are few, all indications are that the vast majority of restraining order petitions are rejected right off the bat. That means even the courts regard most complaints to be stinky. So if “plenty of cases ARE actually justified,” as Anne allows below, it’s only plenty of a small fraction of those the court doesn’t already summarily toss out. Since respondents to this site like Anne are typically people who’ve had  orders sworn against them that were grounded on hyped or false accusations but even so passed muster with a judge or two, the process is pretty much just stinky.

Hi, my name is Anne Copeland, and I have written before about the abuse of restraining orders, which I too have experienced. I am a 74-year-old senior studying criminal justice at a university online, and will receive my degree this coming year and go on to get my master’s so that I can work with juvenile delinquents.

Concerns about the decay in our government are not without foundation. I just read a wonderful article written by the Honorable Judge Harvie Wilkinson III, who serves as a judge for the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals: “In Defense of American Criminal Justice.” It was an eye-opener for me, as I too have come to believe that our justice system is going to hell in a hay basket. I would say that it is very worthwhile reading; it was definitely pivotal in changing my thinking on the subject.

There is a particular case of a man named Clarence Earl Gideon of Bay Harbor, Florida, who in 1964 changed the acknowledgment of our rights under the Constitution. Previously, only cases that were pretty major in nature would enable a person to have a defense attorney provided by a particular state. In this case, the man was indigent, and his alleged “crimes” were mostly minor in nature. But he insisted on his right to have an attorney, and it was a turning point for indigent people facing criminal charges. There is a lot more that is well-discussed in the essay. I think every person who is interested in where our government is going needs to read this.

After reading this article, my next step in thinking was, “Why doesn’t someone who is facing a restraining order, which does have disastrous effects on human lives, request to have an attorney represent him or her and let it be known that his or her constitutional rights are being denied?” I am thinking of doing something along these lines in trying to appeal my case. The “witness” in the case was definitely not credible, nor were the charges that were brought against me. And the judge did not allow me to really defend myself at all but actually charged me, showing me that he considered me guilty before even hearing the case.

I have thought out all the issues, and I feel that each person who can do it needs to appeal the case against him or her on the grounds that his or her constitutional rights have been denied. If enough of us do this, one will get heard finally, and we can put a stop to this devastating and unlawful practice. Just because someone says it is the law doesn’t make it so. We do have the right to challenge the law as it exists now, just as women did to get it changed in their favor in the first place.

I am not saying there is no place for justified restraining orders. In today’s confused and conflicted world, I am quite sure there are plenty of actual cases that are justified, but we need to have the process reexamined and re-aligned with the principle of civil rights for all citizens, not just for those who file falsified restraining orders. The process has to allow the determination that there has been a true injustice done to a person, and then perhaps there needs to be a period of counseling on both sides, as well as a look at the behavioral histories of both sides. I honestly don’t know what, in the long run, would truly be the best procedure to work to the benefit of both parties fairly and for the courts as well, but this issue needs to be addressed so that there is something to recommend.

Remember that as citizens of the United States, we still do have rights guaranteed us by the Constitution, and while they might be tiresome to fight for and very unrewarding in the short distance, we need to exercise our rights the best we can. If we don’t do this, we have nothing to blame but our apathy and feelings of victimhood. Sometimes we need to get therapy to help us overcome the PTSD and stress, etc. from the events that were forced upon us, but then as soon as we can, we need to pull ourselves back up and instead of trying to fight the person or persons who are petitioning the falsified restraining orders (which is always going to be a losing battle), we need to stop thinking about them and not give them power by doing that. Instead we need to deal with the government itself, making our voices heard where we can potentially make an actual difference. Yes, just one person might not be able to do it, but if enough of us petition the government in the higher courts using constitutional grounds, I believe we can get things done. Clarence Earl Gideon was a common street person, not highly educated, and definitely not with any funds to help him. But he believed his rights were being denied, and he took it to the courts and would not give up. And Gideon forever changed the rights of indigent people to have equal representation in court.

I believe most visitors to this site have been injured emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise by falsified cases. So it is time for us to gather together as a body of people and stop wasting our time trying to get justice against those who act against us. Rather, let’s think of a way to get our voices heard in the higher courts to defend our constitutional rights. It is true that our justice system is very unjust at times, but if we do nothing about it, we have nothing to speak for us.

Just because these are civil cases doesn’t mean that we have no rights anymore. The fact is that they can be turned into criminal cases, and frequently are. So our rights are being abused, and we need to come together and form a strong voice to go to the higher courts to defend our constitutional rights.

Thank you most kindly.

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