New York State Revives “Worst Family Court Legislation in the Country”

Albany, New York–A bill before the New York State Legislature would require that ALL persons who received restraining orders would be required to wear an electronic dog collar (OK, I admit, it”s actually a GPS ankle bracelet). For more information, see the bill here or here

This device would allow the government to track their whereabouts 24/7. It costs about $4,000 per year to monitor a person wearing such a device. The monitoring is carried out by private companies that win contracts with the State to do the job. For about 50,000 restraining order per year in New York, the tab comes to about $200 million per year. But note that the New York State website states that the financial impact to the state would be “minimal.’ That means that they are planning to dun the wearer for the costs.

This bill takes away judicial discretion  — in other words, the judge would be required to order the dog collar, rather than judging the need on a case-by-case basis. It is striking that whenever the family court reform movement presses for a change, take shared parenting, for instance, we hear the hue and cry that our proposal would remove judicial discretion – even though most such bills would not. But here we have clear-cut loss of judicial discretion, and they are all rushing to pass this bill.

This bill appears to be identical to a bill that actually passed the New York State Senate last year, but mercifully died in New York”s other chamber, the Assembly. It seems to be identical right down to the following nonsensical sentence, which also appeared last year:

“In 1999 the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services received 55,558 police reports of family offenses involving adult intimate partners. In one out of five of these cases the victim knew the offender . . . . .’   If you read this sentence carefully, it seems to say that only one out of five people who are intimate actually know each other. This gibberish shows just how much thought has gone into this knee-jerk bill.

In February of this year, this bill won Fathers & Families” nationwide contest for worst family court legislation in the country. See the blog post here. Now it has been reborn.

Just in case you”ve been living on another planet and don”t understand what is wrong with this bill, let me tick off some of the problems:

– Restraining orders are given out pretty much on request. In the context of a failed intimate relationship, they are often requested not out of fear, but out of anger, spite, jealousy, desire to evict, desire to save attorney fees, attorney advice, or to gain advantage in a custody dispute.

– No study exists that accurately determines the proportion of restraining orders that have been obtained with false or greatly exaggerated claims. Court insiders such as attorneys and judges give estimates that range from about 25% to 80%. But the subject is so politically inflammatory that they will only speak off the record, so the abuses continue. Even if the lower estimate of 25% is accepted, that amounts to around 500,000 to 750,000 unmerited restraining orders per year. In New York State, it would be around 12,500 to 40,000 innocent people per year required to submit to 24/7 government monitoring.

– About half of the requests do not even claim a violent act or a threat. Rather, the complainant merely states a vague fear that something bad might happen in the future.

– There is no due process in most cases. Restraining order hearings are an evidence-free zone.

– The restraining orders harm children by cutting them off suddenly and without explanation from innocent parents, and putting them in the sole care of parents who are unscrupulous, to say the least. Children are hurt and bewildered when a parent they love disappears without explanation. It is even worse for them when the vengeful parent deceives them by saying their other parent is absent because he is evil, or because he is dangerous, or because he does not love the child.

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