Today, Legal Voice stood with Cynthia Aiken and her daughters in a case that raises critical issues about protections for domestic violence survivors throughout Washington.
In this case, Cynthia's 14-year-old daughter had reported abuse by her father and attempted to harm herself. Cynthia sought a domestic violence protection order to temporarily restrict the father's contact with the daughter and, in response, the father demanded that the daughter be forced to appear in court so that he could cross-examine her. The trial court refused his demand and granted the protection order. On appeal, the father has claimed that his due process rights were violated because he was not allowed to cross examine his daughter in court.
Ten years ago, Legal Voice won a very similar case called Gourley v Gourley in the Washington Supreme Court. We believe the Gourley case makes it clear that due process does not require a suicidal 14-year-old to face cross-examination by her father in order to obtain protection from him.
If the father prevails in this case, we are concerned that nearly every domestic violence survivor in the state would have to face cross-examination in court by her abuser in order to obtain protection. Imposing such a requirement would dramatically change how domestic violence order hearings are conducted and would put survivors at risk of additional harm.
We are especially concerned that many survivors may decide not to seek protection orders if they are forced to endure cross-examination by their abuser to obtain protection. Court proceedings intended to protect survivors would become another place where they are subject to intimidation and coercion by their abuser.
That is why we joined our allies at the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence to submit an amicus brief in support of Ms. Aiken. Special thanks to Laura Clinton of Baker & McKenzie and David Law of Skellenger Bender for serving as Legal Voice's cooperating counsel in this case—just as they did ten years ago earlier for Legal Voice in the Gourley case!