209A Power Play Reversed

Posted on June 29th, 2006, by Dmitry Lev

It is a rare delight to see the courts curtail the ever reaching power of the 209A Restraining Orders in Massachusetts. The Court of Appeals spoke on June 20, 2006, in the case of Mickela v. Fanaras.

Apparently the lower court judge in that case decided to extend the reach of a restraining order to include not only Michelle Hubbard (the victim), but also one Joseph Patuto — the victim’s friend. The judge, on her own accord, made the decision to extend the order to cover Patuto despite clear language in the text of the infamous 209A law. The law limits the reach of who can be slapped with a 209A order and includes only:

  • spouses or ex-spouses,
  • those who reside together,
  • those who are or were related by blood or marriage,
  • those who have a child in common even if they are not married or living together,
  • and those who are or have been in a “substantive dating or engagement relationship.”

In this case, there was no question that Patuto was merely a friend of the victim and that he did not fall into any of these categories. Yet, the lower court judge ignored the law. Comes the Court of Appeals and says, “The [209A] statute is not a panacea for all social ills, nor a mean of circumventing other available judicial processes for resolving disputes.” The Court of Appeals went on to say that even though there may have been concerns about threats and bullying towards Patuto, the 209A law applied only to specific relationships and its reach cannot be extended by a judge’s whim.

Nicely done.

Attorney Dmitry Lev assists persons accused of committing crimes in Massachusetts. In addition, Attorney Lev counsels and represents defendants in domestic abuse (209A Restraining Order) matters and violations of these orders. Law Offices of D. Lev may be reached at (617) 556-9990 for a free consultation regarding a specific matter.