V. Public Defender: TROs Used to “Wreak Havoc” on Partners

During the week of October 3-6, SAVE reprinted four excerpts from Indefensible, a book written by a former New York City public defender. Because of the book’s extraordinary revelations about DV criminal courts, we are resuming the series, this week focusing on the use and abuse of restraining orders:

By David Feige

Known elsewhere as ‘stay-away orders,’ orders of protection are granted to alleged victims and witnesses almost automatically. Those charged…with having violated a stay-away order are subject to a jail term of up to a year – more if there are aggravating circumstances. Though a fine idea in principle, orders of protection are constantly abused. It is not at all uncommon for vindictive, angry partners to use orders of protection to wreak havoc on each other – using them as substitutes for eviction orders or citing them to justify ignoring child custody agreements.
Almost everyone in the Bronx knows that the easiest way to gain control of a disputed property is to get a judge to issue a stay-away. One little allegation and within 24 hours the enjoined party can be barred from the house, allowed only a few hours to collect his things while accompanied by a police officer.

Source: David Feige. Indefensible: One Lawyers’ Journey into the Inferno of American Justice. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2006. Excerpted from Chapter 11. Reprinted by permission.