The number of protective orders issued in Houston’s Harris County has dropped by more than a third since 2011, leading the district attorney’s office to seek fewer orders and prompting concern among domestic violence advocates, reports the Houston Chronicle. Some private lawyers said winning protective orders from the district court has become so hard that they now try to avoid the court altogether, instead seeking less weighty temporary restraining orders from nine family courts. Unlike protective orders, restraining orders cannot be enforced by police. “We’re getting more relief from the nine sitting judges than we are from the protective order court,” said family lawyer Lynn Kamin. “You’re seeing fewer” applications “because people don’t want to go there.” Kamin serves on the board of the nonprofit Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, which participated in a yearlong study of the issue by the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council.
The council identified problems with the application process that could impede someone from getting a protective order, a legal tool designed specially to shield victims of domestic violence. Most of the report’s recommendations are aimed at Judge Lynn Bradshaw-Hull, who was depicted as uncompassionate and demeaning to women applying for protective orders, saying she often accuses them of trying to use the orders to increase their chances of winning custody of children in divorce cases. Bradshaw-Hull, who is up for re-election this November, said she is “saddened” that the report “was leaked to the media for superficial political gain.”