Litigation Privilege: Why Restraining Order Fraud Is Pandered to and Why the Falsely Accused Are Denied Recourse to the Law for Vindication, Relief, and Recovery of Damages

Posted on October 21, 2015


“Fraud is deliberately deceiving someone else [including a judge] with the intent of causing damage.”

Cornell Legal Information Institute

“Generally, lying during trial (or any other part of litigation) is expected to come out at the time of trial. This means an action against someone for lying during a prior proceeding would fail because even lies are protected by the litigation privilege. You have to catch them at the time; you cannot attack them collaterally (in a different proceeding).”

Attorney Catherine Elizabeth Bennett

Here are examples of restraining order fraud and repeated abuse of process (others are here and here, and comments and posts on this site are replete with them).

Here is the obstacle to obtaining relief from fraud committed by restraining order petitioners that the falsely accused face no matter how high up the judicial chain they muster the fortitude to climb:

  1. So-called protective orders were designed to allow battered women to apply directly to a judge for relief from household violence and intimidation. Their origin harks back to the late ’70s/early ’80s. When these orders were conceived 30 or 40 years ago, domestic violence was hush-hush, and (actual) victims faced alienation from their families for airing dirty laundry in public and rocking the boat. They faced, as well, the possibility of their claims’ being discounted by police or even ridiculed (compounding their misery and humiliation). So the middlemen (i.e., cops and prosecutors) were cut out of the process. Thus could allegations be made and ruled upon in the absence of any investigation. It seemed a reasonable stopgap at the time. Over the decades since, despite radical changes in how claims of domestic violence are received by the public and law enforcement (due in no small part to the investment of billions of federal tax dollars), the standards for substantiating an assertion of victimhood remain lenient, while what qualifies as grounds for a court injunction has steadily broadened. People now get orders against their friends, lovers, neighbors, moms, dads, kids, etc., and violence need not even be alleged; some claim of apprehension usually suffices. The process has morphed from a life-preserver for battered women with no other way out of a hellish situation to a sop to satisfy any complainant who fills out an application. Court policy pretends that anybody who walks into a courthouse with a beef (real or not) deserves a private audience with a judge to shield him or her from the terrors of public scorn or disapproval from the cops. Anyone with an ax to grind, that is, is treated like a battered woman circa 1979. So institutionalized has the process become, and so profitable to so many (both financially and politically), that no one questions whether this is ethical. So the restraining order process has become a game, a game played according to anachronistic rules. Maximum latitude is given to anyone (no fee or i.d. required) to litigate any claims s/he wants in a backroom conference with a judge, and rulings are issued ex parte, which means the person who’s accused is prejudged sight unseen. The due process rights of the accused are scotched. Grants under the Violence Against Women Act will explicitly forbid the use of lie detectors. The dictate is purely rhetorical; it’s meant to stress that what a complainant alleges shouldn’t be doubted. This expectation extends to any petitioner. Hence judicial scrutiny is minimal, and judges may actually bristle when the falsely accused allege that petitioners are lying. This is called fair and just.
  2. The idea behind “litigation privilege,” which basically ensures that whatever a litigant or his or her attorney alleges is protected from liability (from charges of defamation, for example), is the same: Accusers need to feel secure to air “the facts” without fear of prosecution.

The protections sketched above were not put in place to defend the right of any fraudster to falsely allege anything off the top of his or her head against a target of malice in a court of law. Perjury, after all, is a statutory crime. Lying isn’t condoned by the law, but it is swallowed by cops and defended by judges.

They’ve had their priorities impressed upon them in no uncertain terms.

So emphatic is the priority to give accusers the benefit of the doubt that people who’ve been wrongly accused have little or no credibility with judges and absolutely no recourse to sue for damages caused by false allegations (to reputation, employment, enjoyment of life, and health). The court doesn’t recognize there are any damages to being falsely accused of stalking, for instance, or violent threat, sexual harassment, assault, or even rape. False accusations that are dismissed as baseless are harmful enough (the stresses they cause are beyond quantification). When false allegations stick, the guilt of the accused is presumed, and subsequent legal actions they may venture to undertake (lawsuits and appeals) may be summarily tossed for lacking merit. In contrast, the merit of rulings that are typically the products of procedures lasting mere minutes isn’t questioned. Some judges will even hold that accusations litigated in court can’t constitute perjury because of the “litigation privilege” (i.e., because they were uttered in court instead of on, say, Facebook or the radio, they can’t be lies).

Accusers (all of them identified with battered women of 1979) must be free to claim whatever they want without fear of risk or blame—that’s the overriding precept. Translated, this means the court’s position is that people must be allowed to lie and snooker the court as they choose…and anyone who’s lied about be damned.

Copyright © 2015

*From “‘Out of Left Field’: The Litigation Privilege Defense to Adverse Party Suits” by attorney Keith A. Call (emphases added):

Despite some authority characterizing the litigation privilege as “absolute,” it is certainly not without limits. There are some claims for which the litigation privilege is usually not a defense. Such claims may include malicious prosecution, fraud, criminal perjury, suborning perjury, and professional discipline. See, e.g., Hagberg v. Cal. Fed. Bank FSB, 81 P.3d 244, 259 (Cal. 2004) (the litigation privilege “operates to bar civil liability for any tort claim based upon a privileged communication, with the exception of malicious prosecution”); Bushell v. Caterpillar, Inc., 683 N.E.2d 1286, 1289 (Ill. Ct. App. 1997) (litigation privilege does not provide immunity from criminal perjury); Hawkins v. Harris, 661 A.2d 284, 288 (N.J. 1995) (litigation privilege is not bar to professional discipline or criminal perjury); Dello Russo v. Nagel, 817 A.2d 426, 433 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2003) (litigation privilege does not insulate against malicious prosecution or professional discipline); N.Y. Cooling Towers, Inc. v. Goidel, 805 N.Y.S.2d 779, 783 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2005) (refusing to dismiss claims against adverse party’s attorney based on fraud and collusion); Clark v. Druckman, 624 S.E.2d 864, 870-72 (W. Va. Ct. App. 2005) (litigation privilege does not immunize attorney from claims of fraud or malicious conduct).