Restraining Orders

  • March 30, 2010

    Prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys are set to clash with family law experts and domestic violence (DV) survivors tomorrow at the U.S. Supreme Court. In Robertson v. U.S. ex rel. Watson, the issue before the Court is who should be the named enforcer of restraining orders, and thus, who is eligible to bring criminal contempt against one violating that order.

    The National Law Journal characterizes the case as "a little-noticed U.S. Supreme Court case that [advocates for DV survivors] say could make it much harder for battered women and men to enforce restraining orders against their abusers." Family law experts who filed an amicus brief in the case argue that DV survivors should have the right to enforce restraining orders in the District of Columbia and at least 14 states permitting private prosecution. They say that, otherwise, restraining order enforcement delayed by a prosecutor's busy schedule could prove perilous for those continuing to face aggression from their abusers.

    SCOTUSblog recited the facts as follows:

    The case involves a District of Columbia man, John Robertson, who was convicted of contempt of a local court created by Congress after a prosecution by his estranged girlfriend, Wykenna Watson, who had obtained a protection order against him.