Common Practices in Restraining Order Trials That the D.C. Court of Appeals Rejected Almost 20 Years Ago

TALKING BACK to restraining orders

“Rejecting the trial court’s concentration solely on the most recent event, we held it to be ‘essential that the court avoid an unduly narrow focus. One cannot determine whether [a CPO is appropriate] by simply examining the most recent episode. Rather, the judge must be apprised of the entire mosaic.’”

—District of Columbia Court of Appeals

The acronym CPO in the epigraph stands for “civil protection order.” Consider what the epigraph says. If it surprises you, that’s probably because you’ve been a restraining order defendant or known someone who was. Almost 20 years after the publication of this opinion by the court, judges continue to take little or no interest in the history of relationship conflict. “The most recent episode” (i.e., whatever a complainant happens to be complaining about) is all judges typically concern themselves with. (Allegations from the accused of chronic abuse by the complainant may be completely disregarded; trial judges prefer their facts in black-and-white.)

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