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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Three PG delegates vote to kill a bill aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence

Remember them in November.
Post, 7 Mar 2010 (Editorial).
AS EXPECTED, the Maryland House Judiciary Committee wrongly killed a bill on Thursday that would have made it easier for victims of domestic violence to obtain protective orders. H.B. 700 would have brought Maryland into conformance with the practices of every other state in the country. As an election-year service to voters, here is the 15 to 6 vote:

Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George's) did not vote, as is the general practice.

Against: Curtis S. Anderson (D-Baltimore), Benjamin S. Barnes (D-Prince George's), Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore), Frank M. Conaway Jr. (D-Baltimore), Donald H. Dwyer Jr. (R-Anne Arundel), William J. Frank (R-Baltimore County), J.B. Jennings (R-Baltimore County), Kevin Kelly (D-Allegany), Gerron S. Levi (D-Prince George's), Tony McConkey (R-Anne Arundel), Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George's), Samuel I. Rosenberg (D-Baltimore), Todd L. Schuler (D-Baltimore County), Luiz R.S. Simmons (D-Montgomery) and Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Cecil).

For: Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery), Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery), Susan C. Lee (D-Montgomery), Susan McComas (R-Harford), Kriselda Valderrama (D-Prince George's) and Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery).
Note that county executive candidate Gerron S. Levi was among those voting against victims of domestic violence.


  1. While I have supported strengthening the law for domestic violence victims in a number of key ways -- requiring the surrender of firearms and lengthening the term of protective orders to name a few -- one of my concerns about lower the burden of proof is the permanent public record that is created.

    Once a temporary protective order is entered, for example, whether it is made final or not, it is available not only to judges and law enforcement, it is also available to the general public, including employers, landlords, investigators doing a background search for a security clearance, etc. Temporary orders are available, "ex parte" or without the alleged abuser being present in court to defend himself/herself, and are available on a lower standard of proof: reasonable grounds to believe a person eligible for relief has been abused. I agree with this feature of the law. A women who is a victim of domestic violence should be able to obtain a temporary protective order (generally lasting seven days in length) quickly and easily without the alleged abuser being present in court. But, it does create a permanent record that could affect, among other things, one's employment and employment prospects. I am a big supporter of ex-offender re-entry and have passed two laws in that area, with an emphasis on employment after jail/prison - after a mistake. I am opposed to protective orders, charges, arrests and some convictions remaining on the public record indefinitely, because I believe these records undermine employment and ultimately public safety. I do believe in a second chance.

    A final protective order is a serious matter and considering the public nature of the proceedings in Maryland and the lasting impact it can have for employment, child custody and other family law matters, immigration status and other areas of the law in the State of Maryland, I believe that Maryland's law has some balance by having a higher standard of proof. At the end of the day, we still have to be fair to everyone involved, and protect the presumption of innocence.

    I have also spoken with many of the judges -- men and women -- who sit on the domestic violence docket and they largely do not support lowering the standard of proof for domestic violence protective orders. In 2007, Maryland courts held over 60,000 hearings related to domestic violence protective orders for interim, temporary or final protective orders and modifications of those protective orders.

    I am trying to pull together additional information for the public about Maryland law as compared to other nearby states on domestic violence, as well as some additional court data on protective order cases. I have considered data from the Administrative Office of the Courts as well as the Office of Public Defender in reaching my decision on this issue over the years.

    State Delegate Gerron S. Levi, 23A
    Candidate for Prince George's County Executive

  2. I said above I was trying to pull together numbers on this topic. So far, want you to know that in a study by the Administrative Office of the Courts in Maryland:

    Between July 1st and December 31st last year, 10,049 petitions reached a final protective order hearing in Maryland and 742 or 7% were denied because the person seeking protection could not meet the required burden of proof. I am searching for how many states in this country beat that number -- states that are denying fewer requests for protective orders than Maryland.

    Also, I wanted to know where on the WEB information about temporary protective orders (available on a lower standard of proof without the other person present) as well as final protective orders (higher standard) are available. They are available to employers, landlords, investigators and the general public on Maryland Judiciary Case Search. Protective orders are also entered in the Put YOUR NAME in and see what you find out:


    Although protective orders are civil in nature, they are also apparently entered in the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) database.

    As I have mentioned, my record of sponsoring, co-sponsoring and supporting protections and services for domestic violence victims is long, strong and largely unassailable. But, I want to be fair, and labelling someone as an abuser for the rest of their life whether they are in the court to defend themselves or not or acquitted or the case is dropped strikes me as fundamentally unfair.

    State Delegate Gerron S. Levi, 23A
    Candidate for Prince George's County Executive