Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/26/2004 08:06 AM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                                                                                                                                
           SB 308-DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTIVE ORDERS                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HOLLIS FRENCH,  sponsor of  SB 308,  explained that  the                                                               
measure does one thing: it doubles  the length of time of a long-                                                               
term protective order from six months  to one year. He noted that                                                               
short-term, ex  parte orders allow  a person  to go to  court and                                                               
get  an  order  without  the other  party  appearing.  Those  are                                                               
referred to  as 20-day orders  or short-term orders; SB  308 will                                                               
not affect them.  SB 308 deals with  long-term protective orders,                                                               
the  difference being  that long-term  protective orders  require                                                               
that the respondent  be notified in person of the  hearing and be                                                               
allowed to respond at the hearing.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
He believes it  is a good idea  to expand the length  of time for                                                               
two reasons.  First, it  will save money.  The court  system must                                                               
frequently  renew  orders,  which   requires  serving  notice,  a                                                               
hearing before a  judge and paperwork. The second  reason is that                                                               
it will avoid putting two parties  who do not want to be together                                                               
in contact. He  said that Alaska continues to  struggle with high                                                               
rates  of domestic  violence. Extending  the length  of the  six-                                                               
month  order  will address  that  problem.  Currently, only  five                                                               
states  have  shorter  terms for  domestic  violence  restraining                                                               
orders; the vast majority of  states give judges the authority to                                                               
impose restraining  orders of  up to  one-year length,  which has                                                               
been shown to have a positive effect on repeat offenses.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  what percentage  of restraining  orders are                                                               
renewed under the current system.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  FRENCH said  the numbers  he got  from the  Court System                                                               
indicate  that as  of  June  30, 2003,  the  registry had  32,586                                                               
orders.  About 1,000  of those  were active,  which has  been the                                                               
norm  for several  years. He  provided  a few  examples from  the                                                               
Court System.   One respondent had nine orders filed  by the same                                                               
petitioner with two  ex parte so the petitioner had  gone back to                                                               
court for  3.5 years.  Another respondent had  19 entries  in the                                                               
registry filed  by two related  individuals, presumably  a mother                                                               
and a  daughter. He surmised  that the current system  works well                                                               
for the  majority of  people but a  narrow category  involves bad                                                               
actors. In  those situations, the petitioner  must continually go                                                               
back to  court because  of lingering  issues on  the part  of the                                                               
respondent.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  asked if  the  same  incentive to  reconcile  the                                                               
domestic unit  based on  a six-month  restraining order  would be                                                               
there with a 12-month restraining order.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH replied  the cycle of domestic  violence is fairly                                                               
complicated but  fairly predictable.  Usually it involves  a slow                                                               
build-up of  tension until an explosion  occurs. Typically, after                                                               
the violent episode,  the couple reunites in  a "honeymoon" phase                                                               
but in  general, the  underlying issue has  not been  resolved so                                                               
the cycle repeats itself with  the blow-ups getting worse. SB 308                                                               
would interrupt the cycle for a greater length of time.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS asked  Senator French to compare  Alaska statute to                                                               
other states' statutes.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  FRENCH explained  that most  other states  have extended                                                               
the length  of time of  orders to  one-year or longer.  Alaska is                                                               
only one of five states with  restraining orders of six months or                                                               
less.  He believes  the longer  time frame  is due  to a  growing                                                               
awareness on society's part about  the long term negative effects                                                               
of domestic  violence and the  length of time necessary  to break                                                               
the cycle.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS noted the many  discussions in the Capitol Building                                                               
over the past few weeks on  the effects of alcohol and drug abuse                                                               
in terms  of the court  system's caseload  and the burden  put on                                                               
law enforcement agencies and  court-appointed attorneys. He asked                                                               
Senator  French if  he  had any  statistics  on the  relationship                                                               
between alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH said he did not  have any hard statistics, but his                                                               
personal observations as a district  attorney lead him to believe                                                               
that a solid 70  to 80 percent of all crime  is driven by alcohol                                                               
abuse, including domestic violence.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  OGAN recalled  that  he  has heard  that  80 percent  of                                                               
people serving  jail sentences  are in  prison because  of crimes                                                               
committed while under the influence of alcohol.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said he  has  been  told  by social  workers  and                                                               
attorneys  that a  huge number  of domestic  violence proceedings                                                               
can be  traced to alcohol or  drug abuse. There being  no further                                                               
questions of Senator French, Chair Seekins took public                                                                          
testimony.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. JAMES F. DIERINGER III, representing himself, told members                                                                  
he took personal leave from work to tell his story today. He                                                                    
continued:                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     I am  that 10 to  15 percent of  the men who  have been                                                                    
     abused by this system and  my domestic violence has not                                                                    
     been related  to alcohol;  it has  been [indisc.]  as a                                                                    
     tool to gain custody,  child support, possession of the                                                                    
     home, those kinds of things.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     I'm a  financial consultant  and I  worked as  a banker                                                                    
     and  I  own a  collection  agency  in Fairbanks  and  I                                                                    
     repossess   cars   so    automatically   I'm   probably                                                                    
     considered  a  crazy   person.  I  wouldn't  categorize                                                                    
     myself  as  a  violent  person  but  as  an  aggressive                                                                    
     person. I  don't commit acts  of domestic  violence yet                                                                    
     I've had five DVROs issued against me.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     I'm  kind of  embarrassed to  be here  today. I'm  very                                                                    
     nervous to  be here. I  was here  six years ago  when I                                                                    
     heard testimony  in Senate Finance  about strengthening                                                                    
     the law,  making it  more liberal  to get  these orders                                                                    
     without going  back on probable cause.  I didn't really                                                                    
     listen at  the time because  it didn't affect me  and I                                                                    
     heard guys  come in and  tell me hey, I've  been caught                                                                    
     in  this web.  It's been  used  against me  as an  evil                                                                    
     tool. It's been abused against  me and I was hoping the                                                                    
     committee would  consider that six months  is more than                                                                    
     sufficient  and it  does drive  a wedge  in the  family                                                                    
     life,  the  children,  trying  to  get  back  together.                                                                    
     You're not  allowed to talk  at all for six  months and                                                                    
     you have to talk through  your attorney at 200 bucks an                                                                    
     hour. In  the first 30 days  it cost me $16,000  to try                                                                    
     to communicate.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     I don't think a DVRO is  going to stop a predator. Like                                                                    
     you said before,  it's a piece of paper  and it doesn't                                                                    
     stop the  real violent folks  that are going to  go out                                                                    
     and commit acts of domestic violence.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     Mine  started  in 1998.  My  ex-wife  and I  have  been                                                                    
     together  since  we  were  15  years  old  and  we  got                                                                    
     divorced after 22 years. It  started our divorce. I had                                                                    
     no idea  what it was. It  was served on me  and she got                                                                    
     temporary   possession  of   the  children,   temporary                                                                    
     possession of  the house,  temporary child  support. It                                                                    
     kept me away  from school and set a  nasty precedent to                                                                    
     when  I finally  got  to my  divorce  trial, there  had                                                                    
     already been  a six, seven-month precedent  set. And it                                                                    
     was assumed that  maybe that was a good  set-up. It was                                                                    
     not a  good set-up. It automatically  gets converted to                                                                    
     a six-month  - yes, you  do get  notice and you  get to                                                                    
     have your day  in court and the judge tells  you that I                                                                    
     shall  issue   this  order  because  that's   what  the                                                                    
     legislation - the  current law says - I  shall issue an                                                                    
     order. And I've  had all of them issued  against me and                                                                    
     I've  had every  one of  them dismissed.  They've never                                                                    
     gone the  full length of duration  because my ex-wife's                                                                    
     either realized  it wasn't fair  [or] she got  what she                                                                    
     wanted  and then  she dismissed  it  because she  wants                                                                    
     help raising the children.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     Twelve  months  is  too  long.  You're  always  on  the                                                                    
     defensive.  I heard  Senator French  refer  today -  he                                                                    
     speaks of females and her  life and then he talks about                                                                    
     he  and him  as the  person that's  getting served.  It                                                                    
     probably  is  80  percent, that's  probably  the  case.                                                                    
     There  are  some  of  us guys  out  there  that  aren't                                                                    
     violent. We get  abused in this system. And  this is an                                                                    
     evil  tool  used  by divorce  attorneys  to  start  the                                                                    
     divorce and  to get  the upper hand.  And I've  seen it                                                                    
     first hand where I've even  told some of my friends you                                                                    
     need to go get your  restraining order first before you                                                                    
     file your  divorce, get the  upper hand, and  I've seen                                                                    
     first-hand  those  two  gentlemen doing  very  well  in                                                                    
     their divorce.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     I  did  very poorly  in  my  trial.  I've been  on  the                                                                    
     defense  for four  years. I've  had restraining  orders                                                                    
     filed   on  me   everyday  on   Wednesday  before   the                                                                    
     basketball tournament starts in  Fairbanks and then the                                                                    
     shootout the next  week. My ex-wife does  it on purpose                                                                    
     and then she shows up  at the basketball games when I'm                                                                    
     there  with my  family and  friends and  calls 911  and                                                                    
     says  he's stalking  me  and  I have  to  leave if  the                                                                    
     police feel  like asking me  to leave. They  can always                                                                    
     come and  arrest me and throw  me in jail for  20 days.                                                                    
     I'm extremely  concerned about that happening  to me. I                                                                    
     respect  the orders  when they're  served on  me yet  I                                                                    
     feel  there's a  tremendous  amount of  abuse on  these                                                                    
     things. She goes in and  she checks no guns, no contact                                                                    
     at school, no alcohol,  no controlled substance. I mean                                                                    
     I have a business  that requires bonding and insurance.                                                                    
     I  have a  background  check and  a  criminal check  in                                                                    
     order to be a collector and  if I were to get convicted                                                                    
     or  break  the  restraining   order  I  would  lose  my                                                                    
     business or I could lose my bonding.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     There  needs to  be some  sort of  penalties for  women                                                                    
     that do abuse  this and there are some  now - probably,                                                                    
     and  I really  don't know  the statistics,  probably 85                                                                    
     percent of these are good  and they're needed but there                                                                    
     are some  folks out  there that  are getting  caught in                                                                    
     the web. She does the  same thing at the movie theater,                                                                    
     the grocery store. I'll be  in shopping and she'll call                                                                    
     911 and  the police will come  and ask me to  leave the                                                                    
     grocery store. She does it on purpose.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     I  have  no criminal  history.  I  have no  record,  no                                                                    
     convictions,  yet I've  been on  the  defense for  four                                                                    
     years. And this  year was so bad that she  did it again                                                                    
     on me on  Wednesday. She was supposed to show  up for a                                                                    
     six-month hearing. It was on  a Monday morning at 8 and                                                                    
     she was  sleepy and she  forgot to  show up. I  mean if                                                                    
     somebody interfered  with their life, they  would be at                                                                    
     that six-month  hearing. It  was dismissed.  Three days                                                                    
     later she filed  another DVRO because she  forgot to go                                                                    
     to her long-term hearing and  they gave her another one                                                                    
     simultaneously  with the  other  one  still having  two                                                                    
     days to  go in it.  When it  expired on Friday,  I then                                                                    
     had 18 more days to  go to another long-term hearing. I                                                                    
     missed coming down to Juneau  because I had to stay for                                                                    
     the long-term hearing and get it dismissed.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     Judge Closuit  is the  lady who  gives them  against me                                                                    
     every time and this last  time I finally asked her what                                                                    
     does  a guy  like me  do to  protect himself.  I go  to                                                                    
     apply for  employment. People look  it up,  see there's                                                                    
     four or five  DVROs. I might not get a  good job that I                                                                    
     deserve. She  told me  that the  law says  'shall issue                                                                    
     anytime' and she said, 'Mr.  Dieringer, if you're going                                                                    
     to  come into  my  courtroom, I'm  going  to issue  one                                                                    
     against you  no matter  what. There is  probable cause.                                                                    
     There's been issues  before and you are going  to get a                                                                    
     DVRO  issued against  you so,  unless you  go down  and                                                                    
     talk to your  legislator or you change  the law, that's                                                                    
     the way it  is.' So, I can't change the  law. All I can                                                                    
     do is tell you my side of the story and hope that you                                                                      
     consider it and that's just what I have to say.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
9:30 a.m.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  OGAN  admired  Mr.  Dieringer's  courage  for  appearing                                                               
before  the committee.  He said  he  has heard  of other  similar                                                               
cases in  which one parent uses  such tactics to build  a case in                                                               
custody  disputes. He  said one  of the  nastiest things  he gets                                                               
involved in  [as a  legislator] are custody  disputes and  he has                                                               
heard that  a number of  male groups have organized  around these                                                               
same concerns.  He noted  if the  committee leaves  the six-month                                                               
order in place, Mr. Dieringer's problem will not be resolved.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. DIERINGER suggested the committee  look at probable cause and                                                               
require  the judge  to look  at  recent probable  cause, not  the                                                               
initial complaint  that started  a restraining order  cycle years                                                               
before.  He  added that  a  judge  can  look  back 20  years  for                                                               
probable cause. He felt the  petitioner should have to prove that                                                               
a recent  act of domestic  violence occurred. He then  added that                                                               
harassment should be  looked at because he has  had a restraining                                                               
order  issued  for harassment  because  he  called his  [ex-wife]                                                               
asking for  tax records. He felt  a good starting point  would be                                                               
to make it more difficult to get the first 20-day order.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR OGAN said he can see  some value in allowing the ex parte                                                               
order, so  that one person  can get one  to remain safe.  He then                                                               
asked if a restraining order affects one's right to own a gun.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. DIERINGER said  it does if the judge issues  it, and that his                                                               
wife checks  it every time. If  he violates that order,  he would                                                               
get 20 days in jail and loss of gun privileges for 5 years.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  OGAN  noted that  women  have  been killed  because  the                                                               
response was insufficient  and a piece of paper  may discourage a                                                               
rational person  from doing something  bad but  domestic violence                                                               
situations  are usually  not rational.  He suggested  raising the                                                               
standard of evidence for the longer term restraining orders.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  said he  has heard  that divorce  attorneys advise                                                               
clients to  be the first one  to file for a  restraining order to                                                               
get the upper hand  in the divorce. He said he  does not know how                                                               
to  correct that  abuse without  affecting  the innocent  parties                                                               
that  need protection.  He said  he  understands Mr.  Dieringer's                                                               
concerns but  asked what adverse  conditions would be  created by                                                               
the longer timeframe in SB 308.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DIERINGER said  it would  affect his  relationship with  his                                                               
children. He  noted he usually does  not want to talk  to his ex-                                                               
wife but has to for the  purpose of getting tax returns to modify                                                               
child  support  or  to  get  educational  information  about  his                                                               
children. During the six-month period,  he is not allowed to talk                                                               
to  his  ex-wife  about  his   children's  discipline  or  school                                                               
progress.  He cannot  go to  parent-teacher conferences  with his                                                               
ex-wife. He  believes a  whole year  would drive  a wedge  in his                                                               
relationship with his children.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  asked Mr. Dieringer  if he has been  successful in                                                               
getting  the restraining  orders  dismissed and  to describe  the                                                               
procedure.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. DIERINGER  said he has.  Either his  wife agrees to  drop the                                                               
order after  20 days or  his wife realizes  she needs to  talk to                                                               
him about something so she  dismisses the order. He admitted that                                                               
he  has  abused the  system  by  simultaneously filing  an  order                                                               
against her as he believes it is  the only thing he can do to get                                                               
on  an even  playing field.  If his  wife violates  the order  by                                                               
contacting him,  the police tell  him to  grow up. If  she calls,                                                               
the police come to arrest him.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS thanked Mr. Dieringer and called Ms. Brink.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BARBARA  BRINK,  Director  of  the  Alaska  Public  Defender                                                               
Agency, said  she shares some  of Mr. Dieringer's  concerns about                                                               
SB 308. The bill, somewhat  paternalistically, requires the court                                                               
to order the  restraining order for one year, however,  a lot can                                                               
happen in one  year. Often families are able  to conquer domestic                                                               
violence  with  the  use  of counseling  and  treatment  and  are                                                               
successfully  reunited.  She  pointed   out  that  last  year  in                                                               
Anchorage, the  court issued  about 1,758 ex  parte orders  - the                                                               
20-day orders. Of those, only  44 percent of the people requested                                                               
a six-month  order. No one knows  why. She told members  she is a                                                               
member of  a Supreme  Court committee  that is  studying domestic                                                               
violence and court processes. One  of the group's recommendations                                                               
to the  Supreme Court will be  that the court follow-up  and find                                                               
out  why so  few  people  who got  20-day  orders  got six  month                                                               
orders.  She  said  the  Public  Defender  Agency  certainly  has                                                               
concern for  people who must go  back to court repeatedly  to get                                                               
restraining orders but  the current system works  pretty well for                                                               
the bulk of the people.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. BRINK  noted that circumstances are  constantly changing even                                                               
under the  20-day restraining  order. Out of  the 1,758  ex parte                                                               
orders   issued  in   Anchorage   last  year,   there  were   520                                                               
modifications  within  that  20-day  period.  She  surmised  that                                                               
cooling off periods  range greatly and she fears SB  308 will not                                                               
save money  but will  force a petitioner  to have  more hearings.                                                               
She then  noted when a  petitioner gets a restraining  order, the                                                               
petitioner is free  to contact the respondent.  If the respondent                                                               
does  not   immediately  extricate   him  or  herself   from  the                                                               
situation, the respondent can immediately be charged.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS. BRINK  told members that  about 80 percent of  the violations                                                               
of orders  happen within  the 20-day order,  while only  about 20                                                               
percent  happen  in  the  six-month  order.  She  cautioned  that                                                               
statistic  encompasses Anchorage  only.  In many  of the  smaller                                                               
communities, it  is very,  very difficult  for someone  to comply                                                               
with a  no contact order.   The  state does not  have information                                                               
about where  in the life  of the six-month order  violations take                                                               
place.  She suggested  drafting a  more particularized  amendment                                                               
giving the  judge discretion to  extend the order  in appropriate                                                               
cases but she  does not believe it  is a good idea  to extend the                                                               
orders in every single case.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked Ms. Brink  to elaborate on  the Supreme                                                               
Court group that she is working with.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS. BRINK  said she  is a  member of  the Supreme  Court domestic                                                               
violence committee, which has been  meeting for approximately two                                                               
years. The standing masters who  are usually in charge of issuing                                                               
restraining  orders run  the committee.  Other members  include a                                                               
Superior  Court judge,  a Department  of  Law representative,  an                                                               
Anchorage  Police  Department  representative,  a  representative                                                               
from the  Office of Children's'  Services, and  victims advocates                                                               
from  AWAKE,  STAR,  the  Women's Resource  Center,  as  well  as                                                               
representatives  from Alaska  Legal Services,  the Alaska  Native                                                               
Justice Center, and  the Council on Domestic  Violence. She noted                                                               
the committee is close to finalizing  its report to the court and                                                               
estimated  its  completion  in three  months.  The  court  system                                                               
members are Jennifer Wells and Suzanne Cole.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if the  committee has actively discussed                                                               
the issue of orders.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS. BRINK said it has.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH asked Ms. Brink if  her objections to SB 308 would                                                               
change if  it was changed to  say the provisions of  this section                                                               
are effective  for a minimum  of six months  and up to  one year,                                                               
unless earlier dissolved by court order.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. BRINK  thought that would  be a large improvement  because it                                                               
gives  the  judge discretion  and  does  not make  the  extension                                                               
automatic.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked how that  would be applied  and whether                                                               
the judges would be likely to default to the maximum.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS. BRINK said  she does not know and, as  a public defender, the                                                               
only contact she  has with a domestic  violence restraining order                                                               
occurs when someone is accused  of violating the order. She added                                                               
that as Mr. Dieringer pointed  out, the default position is often                                                               
to continue the temporary restraining order.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
There being  no further  questions for  Ms. Brink,  CHAIR SEEKINS                                                               
asked Ms. Hugonin to testify.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS.  LAURI  HUGONIN,  Alaska Network  on  Domestic  Violence  and                                                               
Sexual Assault, stated  support for SB 308  because the extension                                                               
will provide  an opportunity to  decrease access to  victims. She                                                               
felt people  can hear  the extreme  cases on  both sides  of this                                                               
issue  and  don't  want  either  to be  used  to  determine  most                                                               
people's  experience  with  protective  orders.  She  distributed                                                               
copies of  the petitions and noted  they are very detailed.   She                                                               
stated:                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     To have that  order crafted well and then  to have both                                                                    
     parties abide by that order,  a year in length wouldn't                                                                    
     necessarily  mean that  if  there  were changes  during                                                                    
     that length  of time,  then either party  couldn't come                                                                    
     back and ask for a  modification. They could. In one of                                                                    
     Ms. Brink's  references, that maybe such  a long period                                                                    
     of time, things will have changed, ...[END OF TAPE]                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 04-28, SIDE A                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                              
MS. HUGONIN continued:                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     ...back to the judge and  asked for that. But, having a                                                                    
     year, I  think, gives  people time  to sort  out what's                                                                    
     going to be  going on. It gives victims  a better sense                                                                    
     of security  if the perpetrator  is going to  take that                                                                    
     order  seriously. I  think you  find out  sooner rather                                                                    
     than later. I understand  we don't have hard statistics                                                                    
     that say at  what point during the  protective order it                                                                    
     might be  violated. I would  tend to think it  would be                                                                    
     more  toward  the  beginning  of  the  order  when  the                                                                    
     perpetrator is still trying to  maintain that power and                                                                    
     control instead  after months of  it going by  and they                                                                    
     found a way to maintain that separate situation.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     I guess I  would like to reiterate  what Senator French                                                                    
     said,  in that  41  states  have a  year  or longer  in                                                                    
     protective orders. Eighteen of  them are one year, four                                                                    
     have  no  time limit,  and  the  rest are  anywhere  in                                                                    
     between  18 and  5  years. Alaska,  at  six months,  is                                                                    
     really on  the more  narrow, conservative short  end of                                                                    
     this kind of protection for victims.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     There  [were]  about  6,000 filings  last  year.  About                                                                    
     3,000 of them  were in Anchorage. A little  over 600 of                                                                    
     them were in Fairbanks. A  little over 500 of them were                                                                    
     in Palmer.  It certainly  affects folks all  across the                                                                    
     state.  I did  want  to just  briefly  mention the  gun                                                                    
     issue. Protective  orders don't just take  away guns if                                                                    
     you're  in  possession  of  them. You  have  to  be  in                                                                    
     possession  of  them  while  you  were  committing  the                                                                    
     domestic violence. Both  the sixth [indisc.] provision,                                                                    
     it  says,   prohibit  the   respondent  for   using  or                                                                    
     possessing  a  deadly weapon  if  the  court finds  the                                                                    
     respondent was in  the actual possession of,  or used a                                                                    
     weapon, during the commission of domestic violence.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     And number  seven, direct  the respondent  to surrender                                                                    
     any  firearm owned  or possessed  by the  respondent if                                                                    
     the court finds  that the respondent was  in the actual                                                                    
     possession of  or used a firearm  during the commission                                                                    
     of  domestic  violence. It's  not  just  that you  have                                                                    
     access to  guns or  that you have  guns, it's  that you                                                                    
     actually  had them  with you  when you  were committing                                                                    
     the domestic violence.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     We also  hear stories  that are egregious  about misuse                                                                    
     of protective  orders. We don't condone  that. We think                                                                    
     it's unfortunate  that people choose to  take something                                                                    
     that's supposed to be a  lifesaving measure to increase                                                                    
     safety of victims  of these crimes and use  it for some                                                                    
     other purpose.  We think  that's wrong  and unfortunate                                                                    
     that that  happens. And it  would be nice if  there was                                                                    
     some  way to  hold  attorneys  accountable if,  indeed,                                                                    
     they  are  just  trying  to   have  this  race  to  the                                                                    
     courthouse to  have their  person be one  step up  in a                                                                    
     divorce.  That is  not  what these  orders  are for.  I                                                                    
     don't think  that's what they're used  for primarily or                                                                    
     most  often  and, you  know,  if  there  was a  way  to                                                                    
     penalize people for doing that we'd certainly support                                                                      
     looking into what that could be.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS indicated that he  knows Judge Closuit and will ask                                                               
her  opinion on  this issue.  He felt  it is  important to  get a                                                               
recommendation from someone who deals  with this on a daily basis                                                               
and whether she would like to have some leeway in the process.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  FRENCH thought  that Judge  Closuit  may be  constrained                                                               
from giving an opinion on pending legislation.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  said that may  be the case  but if not,  he trusts                                                               
her to give a straightforward opinion.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR OGAN  said he has  concerns about the effect  on children                                                               
when they are cut off from  a parent because of custody disputes.                                                               
He said  he worries about  cutting a parent  off from his  or her                                                               
children for one year or having  to involve a third party to make                                                               
visitation arrangements.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS said  he would carry the bill over  to another date                                                               
to provide time for further discussion.                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects