PA 16-105—sHB 5366

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING COURT OPERATIONS

SUMMARY: This act changes several court procedures for restraining and civil protection orders, including:

1. prohibiting a parent, guardian, or responsible adult who brings a restraining or civil protection order application on behalf of someone under age 18 (as “next friend”) from speaking for the applicant at a hearing except for good cause;

2. allowing the court to consider additional information in a report from the Judicial Branch's family services unit at a hearing on a restraining order;

3. providing that an ex parte civil protection order does not continue if a party requests a postponement of the hearing on the order unless the parties agree to the continuation or the court orders it for good cause; and

4. changing the information on domestic violence counseling that courts must provide to people who apply for restraining orders.

The act also eliminates a $2 court fee for filing an appraiser's assessment of land taken for public use ( 7) and updates various references to federal law ( 1-3).

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2016, except the provisions updating references to federal law are effective upon passage.

4 & 6 — RESTRAINING AND CIVIL PROTECTION ORDERS

Applications for Minors

The law allows a person to apply for a:

1. restraining order, if he or she is a family or household member subjected to continuous threat of physical pain or injury, stalking, or pattern of threatening by another family or household member or

2. civil protection order, if he or she is a victim of sexual abuse, sexual assault, or stalking and is not eligible for a restraining order.

The act prohibits a parent, guardian, or responsible adult who applies for one of these orders as next friend of someone under age 18 from speaking for the applicant at a hearing except for good cause showing why the applicant cannot speak on his or her own behalf. But the act allows such a person to testify as a witness at a hearing on the application.

Restraining Order Hearings

When issuing an ex parte order (an order issued before a hearing, when one of the parties is not present), existing law allows the court to consider relevant publicly available court records. At a hearing on the application, the act allows the court to consider a report from the Judicial Branch's family services unit. The report may include the following:

1. existing or prior protection orders from the protection order registry,

2. outstanding arrest warrants for the respondent (person against whom the order is sought),

3. the respondent's risk level as determined by a risk assessment tool used by the branch's Court Support Services Division, and

4. information about a pending or disposed family matters case involving the applicant and respondent.

The report may also include information on pending or past criminal cases in which the respondent was convicted of a violent crime, which includes (1) an incident resulting in physical harm, bodily injury, or assault; (2) threatened violence constituting fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault, including stalking or a pattern of threatening; (3) verbal abuse or argument with a present danger and likelihood that physical violence will occur; or (4) cruelty to animals.

The act requires that both the applicant and respondent receive this report.

Civil Protection Order Hearings

The law requires scheduling a hearing on an application for a civil protection order within 14 days. Under the act, if either party requests a postponement, any ex parte order issued by the court does not continue unless the parties agree to it or the court orders it for good cause.

4 & 5 — COURT NOTICE ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COUNSELING

Existing law requires the court to provide people who apply for a restraining order in a domestic violence situation with contact information for domestic violence counselors and counseling organizations. The act specifies that the counselors must meet the following criteria:

1. be engaged in a domestic violence agency;

2. have undergone at least 20 hours of related training and be certified as a counselor by the training agency;

3. be under the control of a direct supervisor of a domestic violence agency; and

4. primarily engage in giving advice, counsel, and assistance to, and advocacy for, domestic violence victims.

The act requires the court to provide information about domestic violence agencies, instead of counseling organizations. The agencies must be offices, shelters, host homes, or agencies that (1) assist domestic violence victims through crisis intervention, emergency shelter referral, and medical and legal advocacy and (2) meet the Department of Social Services' criteria for providing these services.

The act specifies that courts must give this information, and information on how to continue an order beyond its initial period, to every restraining order applicant.

OLR Tracking: CR; RP; VR; bs