By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
The state task force created to investigate how the judiciary deals with victims of domestic violence is set to release its report next week.
The Task Force on Domestic Violence Cases in the New Hampshire Judicial Branch was started after it was revealed that a woman shot in November by her ex-boyfriend had tried and failed to obtain a protective order.
Richard Lorman, 55, of Wilton, reportedly waited outside of Lindsay Smith’s workplace in Salem, Mass., on Nov. 15 and shot her in the head when she left work. Smith survived the shooting, but Lorman died at the scene after he shot himself.
Smith had sought a protective order in August in the 10th Circuit Court – Hampton Family Division, and obtained a temporary one in September, according to the New Hampshire Judiciary Internal Review Committee’s initial report. However, Judge Polly Hall denied the permanent order Smith sought on Oct. 20 for lack of a “credible, present threat.”
The Internal Review Committee did not fault Hall’s actions.
“Based upon its review, the Committee concluded that the final hearing was conducted in accordance with all applicable laws and protocols, as well as the principles of procedural fairness and proper judicial conduct,” the Internal Review Committee report states.
Smith told Hall about months of threats from Lorman, while he stalked her and harassed her, her family members, and her coworkers.
“Everything you hold dear, I will f–k it up. You can’t trust anything to be okay anymore. I am going to turn your world upside down. You’ll see. You’ll pay. You chose this,” he reportedly said, according to the committee report.
The Internal Review Committee report found Hall was limited in what she could do for Smith, in part, based on New Hampshire law and its outdated definitions of abuse. Smith continued to live with Lorman for a time after the last instance of reported abuse in 2016, and she had contact with him, despite the reported abuse and harassment.
“In this legal context, a judge who understood the facts as the trial court did could reasonably conclude that (Smith’s) expressed fear was generalized and nonspecific in nature and that the defendant’s recent acts did not present a specific and ongoing threat of physical violence toward the plaintiff,” the Internal Review Committee report states.
While the Internal Review Committee, headed up by Judge Susan Carbon, was tasked with only looking at the Smith case, the task force’s scope is broader, looking at the “existing court practice and procedure in cases involving domestic violence allegations.”
The Task Force is chaired by New Hampshire Supreme Court Associate Justice Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi. Marconi, along with Task Force members, will provide a briefing on the report and recommendations on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Supreme Court in Concord. The report will be posted on the Judicial Branch website following the briefing. The briefing will be streamed live through the Supreme Court’s webcast site at https://livestream.com/nhjb/events/10076947.
More information about the task force’s work can be found here: https://www.courts.nh.gov/resources/committees/task-force-domestic-violence-cases-new-hampshire-judicial-system
Amanda Grady Sexton, Director of Public Affairs for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said Friday she hopes the task force report will lead to positive changes for survivors.
“The work of this multidisciplinary task force was to do a systemic review of domestic violence cases and to make recommendations for short and long-term changes to improve outcomes for all victims who seek relief from New Hampshire’s courts when they’re being harmed, and their lives are at risk. We look forward to working with community stakeholders on enacting meaningful reforms and are hopeful that this report will serve as a stepping stone for that work,” Grady Sexton said.