I recently represented a Respondent (the person against whom the protective order has been filed) in a Final Protective Order hearing in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, where the Petitioner alleged that he was placed in fear of serious imminent bodily harm by his wife, the Respondent. When representing the Respondent in such a proceeding it is imperative to know what the other side must prove in order to have a final order granted by the Court and how to gather evidence to refute those allegations. In this case, it was the husband’s burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence the alleged abuse had occurred (see August 16, 2009 blog for specific statutory criteria). By the nature of the protective order process, there often is not enough time in between a client coming in to meet with you to represent them and the Final Hearing date, which can impede obtaining necessary information in a complicated matter. In this situation, although time was an issue, I was able to obtain the 911 calls, the transcript of the Temporary Protective Order hearing, and issue subpoenas to various witnesses, which included friends, family members, police officers, therapists and physicians.
In this particular case, the Husband’s Petition was dismissed at the conclusion of his case after the Court heard argument on my oral Motion for Judgment. Pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-519, when a defendant moves for judgment at the close of the evidence offered by the plaintiff in an action tried by the court, the court may proceed, as the trier of fact, to determine the facts and to render judgment against the plaintiff or may decline to render judgment until the close of all the evidence. When a motion for judgment is made under any other circumstances, the court shall consider all evidence and inferences in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion is made. In non-legal jargon, the Court, in my case, concluded that even after looking at all of the evidence presented by the Petitioner/Husband, in the light most favorable to him, there was still not enough evidence to meet the legal standard to enter the Final Protective Order, all before I had to put on a single witness. Albeit, the preparation still paid off in the cross examination of the Petitoner.
If you are faced with the situation of needing to defend a Protective Order, it is imperative that you have an experienced family law attorney who regularly represents persons in protective order proceedings.