Lying Back: On Taking the Low Road against Restraining Order Abusers

Posted on October 30, 2013

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One of the most common questions that brings recipients of false restraining orders to this blog is how to prevail in an appeals hearing against an unscrupulous liar.

Because restraining orders are easily applied for and typically cost applicants nothing but a lunch break, they’re unparalleled as instruments of malice. With a few strokes of a pen and some calculated fictions conveyed to a judge with the right touch of hysteria, a liar can undo a target of his or her wrath in short order, permanently sullying his or her reputation, subjecting him or her to public disparagement and disgrace, and possibly denying him or her access to home, children, pets, and property. If word gets out, that target may lose his or her job and moreover have a highly prejudicial blot on his or her record that impedes him or her from getting a new one. More than one respondent to this blog has reported being jailed on fraudulent charges or left homeless and destitute.

Multiple restraining orders against a number of people marked for vendetta can even be applied for back to back by a single plaintiff.

False allegations are routinely accepted by the courts at face value—the attention paid to such allegations is scant at best—and if those whom false allegations are leveled against are heard from by the courts at all, it’s only after the allegations against them have been presumed true. An appellant may furthermore be granted no more than 15 or 20 minutes to try to convince the court that it erred in its initial decision. The expectation of a fair and just hearing, therefore, is next to nil.

I’ve spilled a good deal of digital ink over the past 26 months articulating the manifold and manifest problems inherent in the restraining order process, and I’ve offered what limited information and modest advice I could to those who’ve been abused by it.

In doing so, I’ve tried to toe the ethical line: “speak to the allegations and show that they’re false,” “explain to the judge any ulterior motives the plaintiff would have for lying about you,” etc. I’ve counseled, in other words, fighting fire with water.

The more familiar phrase, of course, is “fight fire with fire.” I can’t endorse lying and won’t. But admitting that lying more effectively than your accuser may be the best defense against a false restraining order isn’t a lie.

The sad and disgusting fact is that success in the courts, particularly in the drive-thru arena of restraining order prosecution, is largely about impressions. Ask yourself who’s likelier to make the more impressive showing: the liar who’s free to let his or her imagination run wickedly rampant or the honest person who’s constrained by ethics to be faithful to the facts?

A fraud enters an appeals hearing with the advantage of already having had his or her lies recognized by a judge as true. An honest defendant not only faces the obstacle of disproving what should never have been taken for fact to begin with but must also fend off whatever new lies his or her accuser may have concocted in the meantime or may invent on the spur of the moment.

And that defendant may have all of 15 minutes in which to accomplish this, since restraining order appeals hearings may be allotted no more than half an hour on the court’s docket. A fraud knows exactly what facts to anticipate from an honest person (and can prefabricate false defenses); an honest person flies blind (and in this process, injured), never knowing what’s coming or from what direction.

Unscrupulous restraining order plaintiffs, who may be sociopaths or have borderline personality disorders, may falsely allege violence, bizarre sex acts, stalking, death threats, or worse. And they do so with complete indifference to the effects these allegations (and their being made publicly) have on their victims. Some liars are horrifyingly imaginative and color their frauds with lurid details that would inspire the envy of a professional screenwriter. Some liars—pathological narcissists, for example—are magnetic personalities, besides, who may have devoted followers willing to abet them in a fraud or who may readily persuade those who don’t know any better to take their side.

Should defendants lie?

This question has two possible interpretations:  1. Is it ethically conscionable? Or 2. Is it the only way to defuse an improvised explosive device that could shatter their lives? Depending on which of these interpretations is meant by the question, the answer could be negative or affirmative.

Should citizens in the civilized world ever be placed in the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t position of having to lie to the courts to counteract lies to the courts? The answer to that question is easy:  Hell no.

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