Judges’ Decisions in Domestic Violence Cases

Arizona–“Jack Peyton remembers the scene in vivid detail. Eric Hill at the defense table. Felicia Simmons at the plaintiff’s table, a newborn in her arms. In the back of the courtroom, Angela Gayden (pictured) sat with a 3-month-old.

“One man. Two girlfriends. Two babies. It was Jan. 2 and Hill was accused of violating his probation in a domestic violence case involving Simmons. Peyton, a Pima County justice of the peace, had to decide. Should he send Hill to jail or give him another shot at probation? He gave Hill a second chance.

“Two days later, Gayden was dead. Tucson police say Hill murdered Gayden and dumped her body in the desert with Simmons’ help.

“At the time, Hill was on probation for beating Simmons, not Gayden. Nearly three months later Peyton still has a difficult time discussing the case.’

“‘I still haven’t come to grips with it,” Peyton said Wednesday, tears in his eyes. ‘I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights.'”

There are many aspects of the story Even the judge’s heart breaks in Domestic Violence Court: Trying to prevent repeat crimes is a challenging goal (Arizona Daily Star, 3/23/08) which merit discussion, but I will reserve my comments to only one–judges.

On countless occasions we have discussed the problems men face with the domestic violence system. False accusations of domestic violence are rampant, and are used to get restraining orders, win child custody, get a financial edge in divorce, to punish men, or to get rid of the inconvenient boyfriends or husbands. Judges rubber stamp requests for temporary restraining orders, and exercise far too little judicial review over permanent restraining orders. The evidence standard is usually preponderance, meaning he said/she said, meaning that it’s a lot safer politically to go with the “she said” than with the “he said.”

That being said, while many in our movement love to bash judges (“tyrants in black robes”), far too little consideration is given to the difficult position these judges are in. Yes, the domestic violence system as it currently stands violates men’s rights and ruins men and fathers. Yes, feminists are partly to blame for this. Chivalrous, traditional men are also partly to blame.

But let us never forget this–men like Eric Hill are also very much to blame.

Read the full article here.

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