2022 Yearly Report: Protective Order Outcomes

Civil protection orders are intended to protect victims of domestic violence by directing abusive partners to stop harming or threatening them and, in most cases, to stay away from them for the duration of the order. Protective orders are one of the most effective ways to stop or reduce domestic violence when paired with a strong safety plan and proper enforcement. Final protective orders have been shown to lower the risk of contact with abusers, decrease threats with a weapon and reduce injuries.
In this report, we provide the overall rates of final outcomes in protective order hearings observed by Court Watch in 2022: orders
granted, dismissed and denied. We then look at these rates by individual judge. We also examine how these outcomes are affected
by the presence of in-court support for victims from both victim advocates and attorneys. Finally, we analyze whether judges ask
petitioners certain safety-related questions or refer them to a victim advocate before agreeing to a request to dismiss their case.

Snapshot of Domestic Violence Protective Orders in Montgomery County during COVID-19

This informational report provides a brief summary of the number of Protective Orders granted in 2019
and 2020 in Montgomery County, at the height of COVID-19. It demonstrates that during court closures,
while their numbers were much reduced, there were temporary, and some final protective orders
granted using both commissioners’ offices and virtual options. Additionally, during court disruptions,
data indicate that relief ordered was more restrictive than during normal court operations, presumably
due to judges giving priority to more dangerous cases.

Snapshot of Domestic Violence Protective Orders in Maryland during COVID-19

This informational report provides a brief summary of the number of Protective Orders granted in 2019
and 2020, at the height of COVID-19. It demonstrates that during court closures, while their numbers
were much reduced, there were temporary, and some final protective orders granted using both
commissioners’ offices and virtual options. To their credit, when courts re-opened with limited capacity
in June of 2020, they issued a typical pre-COVID number of final orders.

What does strangulation in Montgomery County look like? An analysis of strangulation in protective order hearings in Montgomery County, Maryland

In 2020 the Maryland General Assembly updgraded strangulation and intentional suffocation from a
second degree assault to first degree felony assault, indicating the seriousness of this crime. This report
discusses this complicated issue in inter partner violence cases, noting the difficulty of establishing
evidence of its occurrence. We examine the outcomes of 226 civil protective order cases in
Montgomery County between 2011 and 2019 where strangulation was alleged by the petitioner and
examine several variables, as well as reviewing the criminal and civil records of the abuser/respondents
to determine if they had prior records of inter partner violence.

An Update on Denied and Dismissed Protective Order in Montgomery County, Maryland

This report analyzes data collected by Court Watch Montgomery in 2,997 protective order hearings from 2015 to 2018 that resulted in judges granting final protective orders, denying the requests for protection, or victims dropping their cases. In it, we examine variables associated with dismissals and denials of petitions, possible gaps in court-based or community services as well as barriers to victims following through with the courts process. Key findings are that the percentage of protective orders granted dropped from 58% in 2015 to 42% in 2018, while dismissals increased from 32% in 2015 to 49% in 2018. Moreover, since 2015 dismissed petitions have consistently increased at the same time that the percentage of cases where judges utilized best practices aimed at keeping victims in the system decreased. In conclusion, the report reiterates that consistent implementation of best practices can help foster an increased faith in the court system and thereby increase the number of victims who take the courageous step of seeking legal protection.

Do domestic violence victims in Montgomery County have full access to justice? A look at District Court judges use of five fundamental practices

In this report, which analyses data collected in over 2,500 protective order hearings in Montgomery
County’s District Courts between September of 2016 and April of 2018, Court Watch examines judges’
use of the five fundamental best practices we first recommended in 2011. Notably, shortly after
publication of our 2011 report, in 2012, Maryland’s Chief Judge of the District Courts, the Honorable Ben
Clyburn, sent every District Court Judge a “bench card” urging them to adopt the very same best
practices we identified. Yet, in this current study, domestic violence victims are protected as they leave
the court house far less often than they were in 2012 – in fewer than half of cases. While judges have
improved greatly in engaging victims who wish to dismiss their cases about their safety, other
fundamental best practices have remained at about the same low level they were in 2011. Of particular
concern is that usage of staggered exits continues to vary widely by judge, with one judge staggering
exits 68% of the time, while a second only used staggers 24% of the time. Among our other
recommendations, we urge the District Courts to adopt a more uniform use of this basic safety protocol,
or to adopt a County wide policy to ensure judges stagger exits 100% of the time.

District Court judge fails to warn respondents to turn in firearms

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department has many important jobs. One of their most important tasks is making sure that respondents who possess firearms turn them into the Sheriff’s Office for the length of their final protective order. Judges also have an important role to play in reminding respondents of the gun turn-in requirement at the […]

Court Watch Montgomery Testimony: Neshante & Chloe Davis Domestic Violence Prevention Taskforce

This is a summary of testimony given by Court Watch’s Executive Director, Laurie Duker, before the Neshante & Chloe Davis Domestic Violence Prevention Task Force. Testifying before this governor-appointed task force, with broad powers to review and evaluate existing domestic violence policies and make recommendations for change, was an opportunity for Court Watch to address problems discussed in its data-driven reports and have impact at the state level. Ms. Duker shared concerns about court processes that hamper full implementation of Maryland’s Protective Order Statute in Montgomery County courts, and mirror problems in the rest of the state. She also highlighted the need for state funded child exchange and supervised visitation services as well as continuing education for sitting judges.

Court volunteers discuss domestic violence with judges

This week 18 court volunteers spent over an hour discussing the protective order and domestic violence criminal dockets with District Court Administrative Judge Eugene Wolfe, and Judges Mitchell, Moffett, Williams and Sabett. It was a valuable opportunity to more fully understand the court’s approach to domestic violence cases and to share Court Watch’s concerns about […]

Judge refuses protection to child at great risk

A District Court judge handling protective orders in November listened as a petitioner told her story. The petitioner described how her partner attacked and strangled her while she was holding their young child in her arms. He strangled her again on the bed, with the child lying right next to them. The respondent’s actions put the child in great danger and show a […]