Green discharge light? Can counterfeit warrant records 209A be finally dropped in Massachusetts?
Records of 209A orders live a long time and are unrelenting. Even an ex parte order that lasts a full 10 days and is not renewed, creates a record that will prosecute a defendant if another 209A case or bail is ever brought against him, just to name a few. Two recent decisions by Massachusetts courts may have paved the way for some of these records to be lifted. These cases and their consequences are discussed below.
In March 2006, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals ruled on a case that has been dragged on for four years, with the ruling light throwing on a question that falsely indicts 209A defendants for a long time: Does a district court judge have the inherent power to strike a 209A restraining order out of state of the Domestic Violence Registry when the warrant was obtained by fraud in the Court. In short, perhaps surprisingly, but much welcomed: YES. The case was Probation Commissioner v. Adams , 65 Mass Application Ct. 725 (2006).
The case began when the couple (for reference, the court ordering the aliases of Jones and Adamas) acquired mutually degrading orders of 209A against each other, which were later extended to one year. Sometime during that time, after Jones was charged with violating Order 209A and criminal trespassing in two different courts, Adams filed a motion to vacate Order 209A against her and delete all order records. This was followed by a typical game of referee ping-pong. The judge granted the motion to vacate after finding that the 19 statements given by Jones were false but denied the motion to quash. Adams filed a second motion to vacate the now-abandoned 209A warrant, which the Probation Commissioner (the office keeping those records) objected to. The judge granted Adams & # 39; motion for exemption, but the Commissioner petitioned for reconsideration. The judge rejected the Commissioner's request, and the Commissioner appealed, arguing that the judge had no authority to allow the ejection. The commissioner argued that, although the Legislature specifically authorized and directed the development and implementation of a system that records all issues and violations of Massachusetts Order 209A, there is no provision for deletion of data because, according to the commissioner, the purpose of the system was to preserve "complete information about the defendant. "
The Commissioner was right that Law 209A did not contain provisions that would allow even erroneously issued orders to be deleted. While it is no surprise and secret that Statute 209A is a poorly written and overly broad piece of legislation, with the exception of the Legislature, specifically saying no exemption is allowed, this ambiguity left a hole and an opportunity for judges to make good law over bad, for change. This is exactly what the Court of Appeal decided to do by restoring to lower court judges a power that was never explicitly seized in Chapter 209A, but which the judges feared to do under Sections 209A: the power to remedy judicial errors and attempt to "ensure full and effective administration of justice" when is an established fraud in the field. In such cases, the Court of Appeal said, referring to various earlier cases, "the lack of legal authorization is irrelevant", moreover, such power "cannot be restricted or abolished by the legislature."
In this case, abandoning Order 209A against Adam is not enough to protect the integrity of the courts and does not send a proper message to the public. Withdrawal of the order leaves the order record in the system. Not only does this leave a lasting mark on Adams, it also leaves, for eternity, a record of a wrongfully obtained court order. Although labels such as "discarded" or "closed" apply to records in the system, no explanation was given as to why the command was dismissed or the case closed. Many 209A orders were released because the victim was not prosecuted. Law enforcement officials will not be notified that the order was vacated because it was obtained through fraud in court. Instead, they may assume that he was acquitted for missing the victim or prosecuting for insufficient evidence. Continued fraud means the downfall of the court itself when law enforcement officials rely on inaccurate information provided by the court. Just as emptying an order is not a sufficient remedy in these circumstances, sealing the order record is equally inappropriate. When the records are sealed, they do not disappear. Although sealed records become inaccessible to the public, raw data are still available to law enforcement officials (police, probation officers and courts). Law enforcement officials would retain access to information that was inaccurate and misleading and obtained through fraud in court. Thus, sealing it would not repair the defect of the court.
Id. at 731-732 (omit citations).
Bravo? Can we run and request that all 209A discharged orders be dropped now? Not really. First, the court made it clear that only orders obtained through fraud in court were discharged. The court cited this judgment as an example of the type of order that should NOT be exempted Vaccaro v. Vaccaro of the case, in which order 209A was vacant because there was insufficient evidence to extend it, unlike the order originally obtained by fraud. 425 Mass 153 (1997). The court said that in the case of just an abandoned warrant or dismissal for persecution, but where no fraud is found, there is a "value" to law enforcement officers in keeping records of its issuance.
Second, the court set a fairly strict definition of what it considers to be fraud, namely "where it can be shown, clearly and convincingly , that a party has vigorously instituted a malpractice scheme calculated to interfere with the judicial system's ability to decide the case impartially by improperly affecting the trier or unfairly obstructing the presentation or defense of an opposing party. . " Adams , at 729-730 (citations omitted).
Third, the court referred to the time for exclusion of the claim, ruling that Defendants 209A “had an appropriate opportunity for argument (fraud) within 10 days and at extended hearings. "If the judge does not find fraud in court, the defendant will have no basis for a subsequent motion to remove the order record from the system. Nothing in GL c 209A, or, in this view, requires a hearing on the defendant's motion for exemption. Furthermore, clear and convincing. the evidence required to prove fraud in a judicial finding will necessarily limit the number of cases in which an exemption could be considered as an appropriate remedy. " Id. at 736-737.
Away from the open ship, Adams The case seems to offer an ever so light door slam to release certain 209A warrants when substantiated by strong evidence of fraud and brought at the right time.
Less than six months after the Court of Appeal ruled Adams , much closer to the day-to-day reality of Order 209A, Judge Gregory Flynn in Waltham District Court made a decision applying the new standards in Adams . The case was Chamberlain v. Khanlian , Docket Waltham District Court Number 0651-RO-99. Here, the plaintiff did not appear at the 10-day hearing and Order 209A against the defendant expired that day. 11 days later, the respondent filed a motion to quash the record alleging fraud on behalf of the plaintiff. Defendant filed his motion with several statements of fact in support of the fraud. The plaintiff did not appear at the hearing on the motion to strike out, but the Probation Commissioner appeared and opposed the exemption in this case, though this time he argued that his sole purpose in opposing the motion was to ensure that the standards were set outside Adams follow.
"In light of the allegations in the relevant submissions, the factual support provided by the accompanying statements, that the applicant had not made clear the allegations of fraud, the court was clearly satisfied that the original restraining order was granted only after a false set of facts presented to the Court," he wrote Judge Flynn. "Therefore, in accordance with the standards laid down in Probation Commissioner v. Adams , the motion for release was allowed. "
This is a case of the "unpublished" District Court, and from its brief decision, Judge Flynn's reasoning or reasoning can no longer be avenged. It is interesting to note, however, that the time standards seem to be set Adams it was not compiled here by the Court of Appeal. In Adams , The Court of Appeal noted that the defendant was the only opportunity to bring fraud charges at a 10-day hearing or any further extended hearings. A ten-day hearing came and passed without a motion to say goodbye. Still, Judge Flynn still allowed the exemption when the motion was filed 11 days later. It is also interesting to note that in the two cases mentioned above, both defendants were women, and both had career reasons motivated by the exemption: one was a lawyer and the other was a licensed physician.
Will see other judges Adams as Judge Flynn did, and whether dozens of falsely accused men in Massachusetts will be able to get relief after this turn of the law – only time will tell.