By Michael Wheeler and Alex Jimenez
NEW YORK, NY – Based on a protective order case that left Shamika Crawford homeless and separated from her family, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that courts across the state are now required to review and justify temporary protective orders as legitimate and necessary.
This ruling is a first of its kind in New York and will allow defendants to appeal “unjust and unnecessary” protective orders.
The decision is the result of the legal advocacy of Bronx resident Crawford, who was left homeless and separated from her children for three months as a result of a temporary protective order in which the case against her was ultimately dismissed.
Citing 16 domestic violence reports as reasons to separate Crawford from her children, the judge failed to notice that Crawford had been the victim in each act of violence, perpetrated against her by her ex-boyfriend.
According to Eli Northrup, an attorney with the Brooklyn Defenders, temporary protective orders are often issued without thoroughly reviewing the facts, undermining due process.
Additionally, many of these orders have devastating consequences, as observed in the Crawford case.
“Family separation, homelessness and other destabilizing and long lasting hardships resulting from these stay away orders are a punishment unto themselves, despite most cases resulting in dismissal,” said Lucas Marquez, who’s a senior staff attorney with the Brooklyn Defenders Services Civil Rights and Law Reform Unit.
A variety of New York advocacy groups supported Crawford’s case, as did New York Assemblyman Dan Quart, who introduced the Promoting Pre-Trial Stability Act during the last session of the legislature.
Linking the importance of the Prompt Stability Act to Crawford’s lived experience, Quart stated, “We must codify a process for reviewing the necessity of stay-away orders into law or we will continue to see stories like Ms. Crawford’s play out in New York Courtrooms every single day.”
Alice Fontier of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem also expressed her satisfaction with the ruling. “Today’s decision reinforces one of the most basic tenets of justice: Courts should not impose punishments without first reviewing evidence.
“For too long, the legal system has imposed consequences first and asked questions later. Today is another step towards justice in New York, and for the fair treatment of our clients,” she added.