Judge fails to set hearings on needed protective order extensions

Judge fails to set hearings on needed protective order extensions

Are domestic violence victims in Maryland able to get protective order extensions when they can show a court that they have “good cause?”  Under Maryland law, if a petitioner has “good cause” for their request a judge can, and should, extend the order for six months to provide continued protection.

Generally, Montgomery County District Court judges have taken the view that a respondent violating a final protective order provides “good cause” to extend an order.  We were disturbed to find out recently that one District Court judge was not even setting hearings on some requests for extensions, even when they highlighted respondent violations of the order.  When several victims detailed serious violations in their request to extend their order six months, the judge merely scrawled “petitioner is referred to the State’s Attorney’s Office.” He did not grant or deny a hearing on extending her order.

The judge’s job was a simple one: set a hearing to hear argument on extending the protective order, or deny a hearing if the application clearly doesn’t have merit. Violating a protective order is a crime, and criminal charges may be in order; nevertheless, the judge failed to do his job. Without an extension of their protective order, deserving victims will have to wait until they are abused again before they can seek legal protection.

Maryland courts do not provide the public with any data on how many petitioners ask a court to extend their order for six months, or how many are granted hearings.  Nor does the Administrative Office of the courts provide any information on how many petitioners are granted their request to be protected for an additional six months.  Perhaps it’s time for the Administrative Office of the Courts to shine some light on this issue.