Order of Protection – DISMISSED!
I am a criminal defense attorney, as you are most likely aware. There is a subset of criminal law that melds into civil work – Petitions for an Order of Protection. I used to shy away from these but over the past few years I’ve taken on many of these cases.
These cases are a different animal in many respects. There are no State’s Attorneys, most of the Petitioners and Respondents are pro se, and the rules of evidence are loose and fast. And the parties are almost always extremely emotional and demanding.
That having been said, I represented the Respondent last Monday in defense of a Petition. The basic facts are that she dated the Petitioner for over a year, they planned to marry and for whatever reason, the wedding was cancelled by the Petitioner. Then things fell apart disastrously. Emails and texts were sent, police reports were filed, my client was arrested on more than one occasion as a result of the Petitioner’s false accusations. She actually ended up with a misdemeanor criminal trespass to property! That case went to trial and she was found not guilty.
I cannot tell you how much work went into this case. My client was hysterical with how she was treated by the Petitioner and how much strife he caused in her life. And truthfully, it was almost impossible for me to represent her as she was very demanding (understandably) with what she expected of my legal services. I had to explain that it was a somewhat simple matter of defending the allegations in the Petition and that it wasn’t necessary to bring up other issues that weren’t related to those specific allegations.
We finally had the hearing last Monday. And this is what I tell every client, criminal or civil: be calm in court, do not make any gestures, do not make any comments unless you are being questioned, and just stand there next to me and look at the judge. People and some attorneys don’t understand that a judge is actually watching everything that goes on in her courtroom. She notices how you dress, how you compose yourself and what you say. I’ve lost trials based on how my client comports herself in court.
My client at her hearing did well. She didn’t do anything to offend the court. On the other hand, opposing counsel started yelling at her at one point when she didn’t answer a question the way he expected her to. The judge lit into him like I’ve never seen. At the end of the day, the judge found the Petitioner to be wholly unbelievable in his allegations and my client now has a clean record. Justice prevailed.
The end all be all of this blog is that as an attorney, I not only have to be concerned with the facts of a case and my defense, but also how I prepare my client for a trial or a hearing. You can’t just go over the case with someone and expect that they’ll understand how to comport themselves in court. A simple shake of the head or sudden outburst, no matter how honest, can be devastating for the defense. I always explain to them that they are going to hear things that are hurtful and often untrue. Their response is to do nothing, just stand calmly at my side and let me do my job. 9 times out of 10, it works out in our favor. Continue reading