Domestic Violence Ruling A 'rEasonable Application' Of Law

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A judge's decision to deny a protective order to a woman who was later shot and critically injured, allegedly by her ex-boyfriend, “represented a reasonable application of current New Hampshire law to the facts of the case," an internal review concluded Tuesday.

A committee conducted the review of the petition denial and released a report following a request from New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice Gordon MacDonald, the state's former attorney general. It also made recommendations, such as reviewing and updating protection order-related forms, and providing access to legal assistance to domestic violence survivors.

The woman was shot on Nov. 15 in Salem, Massachusetts. The man, who had lived in New Hampshire, died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

The woman had obtained a temporary restraining order against the man in September alleging that he sexually and physically abused her for years. A month later, Circuit Judge Polly Hall dismissed the woman's petition for a permanent order, writing “the court cannot find that the defendant’s conduct constitutes a credible present threat to plaintiff’s safety.”

Hall told the committee her conclusion was based on several factors, including the lack of any act of physical violence committed by the man since 2016, her understanding that the man's threats were related to “blackmail" and reputational or emotional harm, and her finding that the woman had a generalized fear of what the man might do, rather than a fear of a specific physical threat.

Hall also looked at several court cases addressing the issue of credible present threat. She found that while the man's behavior was “controlling and coercive" and demonstrated his anger at her attempt to end their relationship, it didn't establish a credible present threat to her safety as defined by the law.

The review was led by Circuit Court Judge Susan Carbon, former director of the Office on Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice.