A District Court judge recently became irritated during a temporary protective order hearing and accused a traumatized petitioner of lying.
In her petition, Bridget [name changed] told a credible and all-too-common story:
“He was drunk and I had told him I didn’t want to be with him and he said the only way we will be separated is if I call the police, he said he will kill me and he said he will not leave me olone, he slap me. . . I would like [the respondent] to get help he has Anger problems, he needs counseling. He had punched me and push me he slapp me try to have sex without my will.”
The respondent, who is homeless, needed a place to stay and wasn’t leaving without a fight.
Like anyone who has been assaulted, Bridget undoubtedly found it quite terrifying to find herself within ten feet of someone who had attacked her, even though bailiffs were nearby. Bridget also had no lawyer with her to help elicit her story if she froze or lost her train of thought.
The petitioner told the judge that she feared for her life, and that her ex-boyfriend had said he was never going to leave her and she’d have to call the police. She did not describe the threat to kill. The judge, becoming more irritated each time, asked her several times “What else did he say to you?”
Near the end of the hearing the following exchange ensued:
Judge*: “Ma’am I’m going to grant your order. I’m having some issues with your credibility. But based on your petition and what you’ve told me today I’m going to go ahead and grant it. It seems odd to me that you would put in your petition that ‘he threatened to kill me’ but then when I asked you three or four times you never said that. That seems odd to me. It makes it sound to me like you’re making it up. That’s odd.
Petitioner: “I’ve been a little nervous and I don’t remember everything that I wrote down.”
Judge: “Well if somebody says ‘I’m going to kill you’ that is usually something that somebody remembers and it’s the first thing out of their mouth…So you not saying that leads me to believe that you may not be telling me the truth. And that is not due to nervousness, it is due to lying. Anything you’d like to tell me?”
Petitioner: “He always tells me that. That’s not … strange.” …(Unintelligible on CD).
Near the end of the hearing:
Judge: “You’ll come back next week and tell your story to the next judge and I’m telling you that credibility was an issue with you for me today and I wrote that in my notes for the next judge, but ‘reasonable grounds’ – you ‘passed’ today.”
One week later, In the final hearing, Bridget cried throughout her testimony. Luckily, she was represented by a House of Ruth lawyer. The lawyer walked her through specific testimony about the physical attack she was subjected to and the threat to kill. Bridget was granted a Final Protective Order for one year.
*Court Watch staff transcribed excerpts of the hearing from a CD purchased from the court. We are confident our transcription accurately reflects the tenor of the hearing. We made a good faith effort at perfect accuracy, but some words were difficult to hear. This is only an excerpt of a longer hearing.
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