Family Law Activism

For those who don’t know this about me, about twenty years ago I dated someone, we broke up, she filed for a protective order because I called her one-to-many times to get back together, then – while the protective order was in place – she created a fake persona, emailed me over one hundred and seventy times, visited my home, spent a weekend with me, interacted with my friends and assaulted me in a restaurant. Then, she went to court and had me arrested for violating the court order.

The court did not do anything to her because the order was against me, not her. And, because of the current statute reduces the level of proof needed to file an order and the overall process is treated with off of the seriousness of a traffic ticket, too often orders are issued that can have lifelong effects on defendants.

In my case, even though there was no violence or physical harm, people were suddenly scared of me. When in relationships, if the other person found out about it they got scared and the relationship often ended. It was serious.

A few years ago, I finally realized that the courts were not going to be able to help. The judicial system is in place to interpret the law as it is written and enforce it in a reasonable way. Unfortunately, the people writing the laws aren’t able to see every situation so when cases like mine expose a loophole, that loophole needs to be closed by changing the statute.

Over the past few years, I’ve been working with local lawmakers to change the current statute. I’ve broken down the statute to ensure that the changes would not reduce the ability for a person filing legitimate requests to get the protection they need – but the statute needs to be tightened up to ensure both parties are aware that the order of the court needs to be respected both ways.

I feel the order is often viewed by the person filing it as some kind of a power play. They think that they now have the power to force the other person to leave a restaurant – for example – if that person happens to show up. The order should not restrict the rights of either party. And, it should not be used as some kind of a way to get revenge on a lover or get even for something.

In my case, the other person sent me a message telling me that that is what I get for cheating on her. Not good.

My suggestions for change:

RECOMMENDED CHANGES TO THE CURRENT PEACE ORDER STATUTE AND RELATED SHIELDING RULES

I. TWO WAYS. Peace orders should be two ways. For temporary peace orders and final peace orders or “permanent peace orders,” if either party contacts the other party, directly or through third parties, the action would be considered a violation of the order. Both parties need to know that they are agreeing to not communicate with each other. This should not be a problem because, if the plaintiff is truly scared or in fear, they should not be reaching out to the defendant. 

II. RIGHT TO DEFEND. The defendant should have the right to defend themselves against the peace order.  

III. ABILITY TO SHIELD. Any peace order that is filed and NOT granted should be eligible for shielding.  

IV. CASES PRIOR TO 2006 ELIGIBLE FOR SHIELDING. Any case filed and ruled on prior to 2006, when the State of Maryland opened Case Search, should be eligible for shielding. 

V. CASE RECORDS MUST BE SAVED. The court should not delete ANY files, including court transcripts and/ recordings, while the case remains on someone’s record. The State of Maryland currently has disposal processes for court recordings. This, I’ve been told, is due to the volume of cases and costs to store materials.  But, a clerk in Howard County’s Clerks Office was unable to provide a clear reason why the records are deleted and Mr. Wayne Robey, Howard County Circuit Court Administrative Clerk, stated to me that he was unaware of why the district court disposes of records.  The state’s attorney told me that the file disposal process is a problem he runs into often when requesting needed case records. 

VI. ASSIGN AN INTERMEDIARY. This would make it mandatory that the two parties have a set mutually agreed upon contact for any and all communication between the two parties. If a private contact cannot be obtained, the court should appoint a contact. By doing this, the court would reduce the number of violations and would also help to maintain the confidentiality of Plaintiff’s contact information. The Intermediary should be acceptable contact including but not limited to when the defendant is required to notify the plaintiff of court action/activity.

I am working on this case and will post updates here and on the other website as they become available. www.peaceorder.us. The pandemic is making changes like this much more difficult but I will not back down.

Gary

I grew up in Baltimore and currently live in the Rodgers Forge community just north of Baltimore City.

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