My Victim Services Advocate from my local police department had prepared me for the fact that it was likely that my ex-husband, Neil, would request a court hearing after he was served with the Order of Protection. He is an air marshal and air marshals are required to carry a firearm while on the job, but with the Order of Protection in place, he was unable to possess a gun. So I was somewhat prepared to have to go to court to make sure the order was upheld. And at least I had my testimony and evidence ready, thanks to the tremendous help from my advocate.
What I wasn't prepared for was how hard it was emotionally to have to see Neil again. That was the last thing I wanted to do, and was basically the main reason I got the Order of Protection in the first place -- so that I'd never have to see him or talk to him again. Just being in the same room with him, to see him there with an attorney representing him, was so incredibly difficult. I honestly couldn't believe I'd married a man who would bring us to this point. This horrible place where we had to face each other and testify against each other in court. It's so brutal. And unbelievable to think that I ever loved him. Now, looking back, I can't even remember loving him. It's like those memories just died and disintegrated.
Somehow I got through my part of the court hearing. As my advocate had told me ahead of time, I was asked by the judge to give my testimony and evidence in the very beginning. I was so glad to get it over with, as it was excruciating to go through. As every word came out of my mouth, I felt like I was reliving the nightmare that I'd experienced. It was so hard to keep my composure.
Oddly enough, the judge stopped our hearing immediately after my testimony. She called us back to her chambers, and let us know that she didn't want our conversation to be recorded in court. I asked if I could bring my advocate to her chambers with me, but the judge's assistant told me no, that we "didn't have enough time." So there I was alone without my advocate, in a small cramped office with the judge, Neil and his attorney. The situation seemed very underhanded on the part of the judge, and I was frustrated when, in the beginning, she only talked directly to Neil and not to me. She said that she was concerned about his job being impacted by the hearing since he's in law enforcement. I was stunned by this. Legally, the defendant's job has nothing to do with whether or not the Order of Protection should be upheld. The more the judge talked, the more it became obvious that she was inexperienced in Orders of Protection hearings. I found out later that she was brand new in her position and had previously been a defense attorney.
After the impromptu, behind-closed-doors meeting, and we went back into the courtroom, the judge granted Neil a continuance, and she scheduled another hearing for 35 days later. Again, I was stunned. I turned to my advocate, confused, and she whispered, "You've just been screwed by this judge."
Normally, a judge or commissioner will make a decision at the hearing, without granting a continuance. What happened was unbelievable. So I left the court knowing that I'd given up all of my testimony and evidence, and that Neil and his attorney could play around with it for the next 35 days until the next hearing. And at the next hearing, I wouldn't be given an opportunity to speak at all. I really couldn't believe this was happening. I counted on the fact that I'd have a decision from the judge that day, and that I'd be able to move on with my life, whatever the decision. And I would never have to see Neil again. But, the judge completely pulled the rug from under me. Now I would have to face him yet again.....and this time I'd have to hire an attorney since the judge displayed such an appalling lack of knowledge and experience.
More on this later....