Advocates for domestic violence victims are sounding a warning about a U.S. Supreme Court case being argued tomorrow that they say could make it much harder for battered women and men to enforce restraining orders against their abusers, reports the National Law Journal. The case challenges the way restraining orders are enforced in the District of Columbia. D.C. law allows victims to bring criminal contempt charges when abusers infringe on a court order. At least 14 states have similar setups.
Family law experts say the private right to prosecute gives teeth to restraining orders — or civil protection orders, as they’re called in Washington. Victims can file the paperwork and argue at the hearing that the judge should jail a tormentor. They don’t have to convince a busy prosecutor to add to his or her workload. The high court case asks the justices to decide in whose name they must be brought — the victim’s or the state’s? More than three dozen anti-domestic violence groups, law professors and former judges have signed onto amicus briefs to argue for the victim’s name. A ruling otherwise, they say, could so complicate the process that the abused would lose one of their most important weapons.