Coercing Coercion: State Abuses of the Restraining Order Process

Posted on March 13, 2013

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I was emailed yesterday by a humbly polite man whose family was under threat of eviction from their state-subsidized living quarters if his wife refused to swear out a restraining order against him. He admits to a criminal past but says he’s engaged in no recent conduct that would warrant this invasive action. Nevertheless his inaccessibility to legal representation and his family’s being in dire financial straits make his wife’s “choice” inevitable: either he lives in a refrigerator box on the streets or he shares one with his wife and children.

Browsing the Internet brings up similar accounts of coercion by government agents (of a process that is itself inherently coercive: “Do what we say or live in a cage”):

coercion, restraining order, restraining orders

coercion, restraining order, restraining orders, CPS

And these stories are echoed by others that have led visitors to this blog over the past year.

So unregulated and debauched is the restraining order process that even agents of the state abuse it without worry of censure or reprisal. Its manipulation has become standard operating procedure and is both systemic and systematic. There are even secret passwords to cue judges as to how they should rule on restraining order applications: “Just say you’re ‘in fear of immediate danger’”—wink, wink.

These are the cynical conspiracies of those who know they have the power and can abuse it arbitrarily. Public perception of restraining orders is that they’re indispensably vital to checking the misconduct of “bad guys.” The propagandists who maintain this duck blind—feminist advocates, for example—are often true believers who militate for even broader court discretion and laxer standards of due process, ignoring the truism that absolute power corrupts absolutely. And lawmakers and administrators yield to popular sentiment.

As for the kids who are either left fatherless or are tossed to the curb or fostered out—they don’t vote, anyway.

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