High Court Nixes Restraining-Order Suits
Justices Protect Police from Legal Action over Enforcement
Monday, June 27, 2005; Posted: 4:41 p.m. EDT (20:41 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Monday that police cannot be sued for how they enforce restraining orders, ending a lawsuit by a Colorado woman who claimed police did not do enough to prevent her estranged husband from killing her three young daughters.
Jessica Gonzales did not have a constitutional right to police enforcement of the court order against her husband, the court said in a 7-2 opinion.
In a dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said that the woman's "description of the police behavior in this case and the department's callous policy of failing to respond properly to reports of restraining order violations clearly alleges a due process violation."
"The restraining orders are not worth anything unless police officers are willing to enforce them. They are just paper," said Brian Reichel, the attorney for Gonzales. "If nothing else this case has shined the spotlight on a very important issue."
If Judges ever lie awake at night pondering past rulings this will be one of the cases that keep them thinking long into the wee hours of the morning, for it is truly a tragedy of our modern age. A woman marries a dangerous man bears him three children and then attempts to leave. She is given ALL the help our society has to offer from supervised visitation of the children to the infamous ‘restraining order’ and YET he still manages in a final, bloody, spite-fueled and heinous act, to violate the order, take the three children and subsequently murder all of them. It’s his final deadly act of revenge against his estranged wife.
As always in these tragedies, we look for some meaning, reasonable explanation, something or someone that can be assigned blame. Not just for reasons of punishment although that is part of it, but more so I believe to assure that this does NOT happen again. To convince ourselves, in spite of some evidence to the contrary, that we are in complete charge of our destiny and are capable to handle whatever life throws at us, come hell or high water…
Unfortunately in the case of Jessica Gonzales and her family, this did not prove to be the case. She put her faith in the ‘system’ and the system failed, as it often does and probably will continue to in the future. For ultimately women have to be aware that a restraining order is NOTHING MORE THEN A PIECE OF PAPER…only as good as the greater society’s willingness to follow it’s dictate. For law enforcement in the field to ENFORCE it’s provisions and mostly for the person it’s served against to FOLLOW the rules as it lays them out…otherwise as many women have found out to their sorrow, restraining orders are pretty much useless.
Today everybody and his grandmother is having restraining orders placed against one another and they mostly appear to have morphed into a tool used by enterprising lawyers and their clients to get the jump on an adversity in a divorce/custody case or any case really involving property issues of one kind or another where the first one to get a restraining order ‘wins’ due to the long held legal principal of “possession being 99% of the law”. Thus a restraining order barring your adversity from the property is a tool now of negotiation as opposed to a legal restraint against a dangerous individual. Actually the people who follow restraining orders without question are probably the least likely to need having one issued against them.
I, myself, was threatened with a restraining order for sending too many emails to someone in one of those internet ‘flame wars’ when I discovered they had allowed my personal information, including my picture, to be posted on an unfriendly website. So instead of being a victim I instantly morphed into the victimizer, through this clever ‘bait and switch’ tactic that was used against me.
Thus, we can see that the use of restraining orders has now mushroomed to the point that it’s probably a physical impossibility to expect the local police department to be able to monitor the use and misuse of them. Colorado, which is NOT a small state, probably has Judges issuing thousands of restraining orders covering couples fighting over custody to neighbors disputing property lines, loud music or Christmas tree lighting issues. Thus, I’m sorry to say how were the police to know this was the one time out of 10,000 where a restraining order was issued against an extremely dangerous individual and that they needed to put out an Amber Alert to locate him and the children.
Short answer, they couldn’t know.
Same issue with parental abductions now btw, for the mothers who don’t know this yet. As many mothers have told me that the police in their states have become so immune to hearing about abductions by the other parent now, that mothers who sent their kids for a visit to their fathers and never get them returned are routinely met with a yawn when they go to file a complaint and directions to hire their own attorney to handle this.
So mothers be prepared.
I wish it was different. I wish that there had been something that could have been done if not to help this mother and her children, to help the next ones, as there will surely be others. The only thing I can say that applies and hopefully it won’t sound like blaming the mother here is that women MUST take great care in who they marry and/or have children with today. I’m not sure if enough of us retain this age-old, simple, common-sense way of ordering our lives anymore. I mean I hate to say this but sometimes I get the sense that many women no longer take the care they should in choosing a future spouse or father for their children. Perhaps there is a feeling amongst many of us that because we live in a world safe from 4-legged predators, the elements and plague in marvelous cities, with accessible public transportation, supermarkets and a hospital, library or precinct on practically every other corner, that we are invincible from ANY harm.
Remember there are STILL dangers that lurk out there especially for unwary women, the smaller, less aggressive and generally physically weaker of our species.
Bringing an aggressive, violent man into your life and allowing him to become the father of your future children can turn into a mistake that there is NO recovery from…
So you not only place yourself in danger, but any offspring that he spawns, as with or without marriage men today have the exact same legal rights as you to any children you birth…the moment the children are born your sole legal rights are lost…those children are no longer yours to protect and legally a court can rule that the man you picked as a father (no matter how dangerous he is) has the same or MORE access to them then you do…
Women in their role as mothers need to keep these facts in mind for future reference.
As this Supreme Court decision makes clear, care MUST be taken BEFORE this becomes an issue.