Elisa Tissot’s murder at TESC in 1984 prompted Washington’s legislature to enact laws intended to prevent such tragedies when emergencies arose like the history of Elisa’s ex-boyfriend stalking her before killing her in the TESC cafeteria. Click HERE for story. But like so many roads to Hell, this one was paved with good intentions. Today, RCW 10.14 has evolved into a summary proceeding in equity action tantamount to doling out parking tickets or gumdrops. In fact, you’d be entitled to MORE Due Process for a parking ticket. RCW 10.14 civil proceedings are now regularly rubber stamped and rushed through based on ex parte allegations which often fail to claim/show an emergency or imminent risk of harm/injury.
Ex parte proceedings are generally disfavored for exactly the reason that without notice to the opposing party, the process becomes a moral hazard and invitation to abuse. No jury is available to the named respondent who is often the real victim when the petitioner has a hidden agenda such as using it as a SLAPP (hurdle to exercising 1st Amendment and/or Constitutional rights) suit. In fact, many of the sleazier divorce attorneys use it (or its domestic violence equivalent) routinely to gain an unfair advantage in disputes over child custody/visitation. The shysters, however, are not alone. The mentally ill and vengeful spouses also find solace in the breath-taking scope of the statute. Despite that law’s prohibition against attenuating Constitutional rights & civil liberties (RCW 10.14.190), the provision is frequently ignored by judges/commissioners more interested in quantity than the quality of justice they pretend to administer. The resulting wreckage strewn across their jurisdictions reflects their personal biases which they fail to curb.
Richard Sanders, a retired Washington State Supreme Court Justice recently opined this law had become the sword of the great unwashed used to reduce citizens to the status of children under the weight of the Nanny State intent on substituting its judgment for their own. Weasel words such as ‘alarm’, ‘annoy’, and ‘intimidating’ are inveighed with abandon, but acted on with judicial dispatch with NO opportunity by the target to respond until notified (often by a deputy sheriff) of a court date only days hence and the stripping of many of the respondent’s most fundamental liberties.
Ah, but, you might say, surely the respondent did SOMETHING to deserve such a fate in sustaining the wrath of God (or the Courts). It’s the story of Job in our post-industrial age. Like Job’s friends, it’s easy to blame the victim. Surely God (the Courts) would not punish a respondent unjustly? They’d at least give a full measure of Due Process before stripping a citizen of their rights…and only because of compelling circumstances/wrong doing…right? NOPE! Don’t count on it if you don’t subscribe to the tooth fairy.
Illustrations are often windows to understanding. Consider the case of a Washington man who made any number of mistakes in his life. But child abuse and domestic violence wasn’t one of them. Being a loser was, but should we kill him for it? Yet that’s just what our court system did, at least in principle. The guy couldn’t keep a job. Being a drug addict didn’t help. His wife divorced him, looking to plug in a more productive father figure. He couldn’t make his child support payments and, because he abused drugs, ended up in prison. The wife cajoled him into allowing her to have the new husband ADOPT his kids. She likely explained to him how doing so would relieve him of any future child support obligations. About to enter prison to serve his sentence, he agreed.
Presumably, while serving his sentence, the man noticed how lonely it was in prison. Upon his release, but knowing his parental rights had been extinguished forever, he began to attend football games in which his sons played for their local high school. The mother resented it. She claimed the boys were ‘annoyed’ and ‘distressed’ because of their father’s presence in the stands. No allegations were made of any communications by the father, simply attending the games was alleged to be ‘harassment’ by the ex-wife and…the judges (Spokane) concurred. They upheld the mother’s vilification of the hapless loser. His right to attend the public sports events in which his sons played was cutoff. The details of this all too typical use of RCW 10.14 to gut the rights of those with insufficient means to defend themselves follow: