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N.J. Supreme Court Takes Up Crespo

On October 6th, the New Jersey Supreme Court announced it would hear the Crespo appeal. Crespo is the case that, among other things, challenges the constitutionality of Protective Orders issued under the "Preponderance of the Evidence" standard of proof, which is among the lowest of all legal standards of proof in the U.S. A lower court judge ruled that "Preponderance of the Evidence" is not sufficient to remove a person from their home and deny them access to their children. The appeals court overturned the decision. But New Jersey attorney David Heleniak has convinced the N.J. Supreme Court to review the case. According to Heleniak, a victory in the New Jersey high court could have ripple effects across the country.

The way protective orders are issued is one example of the erosion of civil rights and due process protections in cases alleging domestic violence. Mandatory arrest, "predominant aggressor" and "primary aggressor" laws, no drop prosecution, low standards of proof for protective orders, over-broad definitions of domestic violence, and Federal funding that encourages officials to interpret as many cases as possible as domestic violence cases, have all lead to the predictable result: massive civil rights violations in the area of domestic violence.

A recent article at crosscut.com (http://crosscut.com/blog/crosscut/19135) illustrates what happens all too often. The police, the prosecutor, and the judge, all chasing VAWA funding, choose to see domestic violence even in cases where the woman they want to paint as victim vehemently insists that rather than domestic violence, what actually happened was that her husband accidentally knocked her over while saving her from being run over by oncoming traffic. In doing so, these officials perpetrate massive harm on the innocent citizens they're charged with protecting.

In no other area of the law have civil rights and due process been so weakened. DV laws lead to politically driven justice instead of the impartial rule of law guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions.

Please notify your state legislators and let them know that the New Jersey Supreme Court has sufficient constitutional concerns for a hearing on civil rights and due process in DV laws. Tell them to undertake similar reviews and make legislative changes to DV legislation in your state.

Date of RADAR Release: November 2, 2009

R.A.D.A.R. – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting – is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of men and women working to improve the effectiveness of our nation's approach to solving domestic violence. http://mediaradar.org