NJ Court Rules Domestic Violence Hearing Unfair, Grants New Trial

September 8, 2015 · by RLF Attorneys · in

restraining-order-documentIn a recent domestic violence case, a New Jersey appeals court has ordered a new trial for a Morris County man who had a restraining order placed against him. The Appellate Division Judges found that the man was prevented from defending himself and convicted based on weak evidence that was insufficient to support the conclusions made by trial Judge Philip Maenza.
The facts indicate that the plaintiff, identified as C.H., dated defendant J.S. between June 2012 and October 2013 and again for a short time in June 2014. After their last breakup, C.H. sought a restraining order alleging that J.S. sent her “six or seven ranting text messages” and threatened to post private photos of her on the Internet.
At the trial level, Judge Maenza asked C.H. if  the text messages concerned her. C.H. responded that she was concerned because “‘once something goes on the Internet it doesn’t come off the Internet.'” Judge Maenza then asked J.S. if he disputed sending the text messages where “‘you threatened to expose her to the world.”
J.S. responded, “‘I admit that the third time that she broke up with me I … was very hurt, and I said things I didn’t mean, but I also think that after two years of being with me she knows that I would never do anything like that. I don’t even know how to do anything like that. I wanted her to understand … how hurt I was, but that’s it.”
Maenza ended the trial after J.S.’s response and found the defendant guilty of criminal harassment under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, which is one of the predicate offenses for entering a final restraining order.
J.S. appealed, arguing that there was not enough evidence to support his conviction for criminal harassment and that his due process rights were violated during the hearing.  His attorneys cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in J.D. v. M.D.F. (2011), when the court said “Not all offensive or bothersome behavior … constitutes harassment.”
The Appellate judges also noted that the text messages were never even presented as evidence by C.H . The appeals court said, “We conclude defendant’s fundamental rights to be heard were trampled on by the hearing procedures employed.” The Appellate judges have ordered a retrial to be presided over by a different judge.
A restraining order subjects a person to serious consequences, including exclusion from a joint home, restrictions on visits with joint children, restrictions on owning weapons, and bars against careers in law enforcement. Although it might seem difficult for a victim to obtain a restraining order in NJ, it is even more difficult to get one vacated or removed.
If someone is seeking a restraining order against you or you already have one imposed against you and want to have it removed, contact The Rosenblum Law Firm at 888-815-3649. It is crucial for you to hire an attorney to protect your legal rights as soon as possible.