Bill seeks to clarify Nebraska’s protective order process
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska bill seeks to clarify the state’s law on protection orders and require at least an initial hearing for all applicants — a change advocates and state lawmakers hope would help those who need protection from domestic abuse, sexual assault and harassment.
Nebraska is one of only two states that don’t require hearings for protection order applications, according to Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh. Her bill would require a hearing within 14 days of an application being filed, clarify application details and create a standard renewal process for all protection orders.
“If it is going to be dismissed, they should be given the opportunity to hear from the judicial system,” Cavanaugh said.
Almost 930 of the 3,300 protection orders filed in Douglas County last year were immediately denied without a hearing and often without an explanation from a judge, the Omaha World-Herald reported. About 55 percent were immediately granted a protection order, while 17 percent were awarded a hearing where additional evidence could be presented.
Janet Franks-Bohm’s application for a protection order against her husband, Carl Bohm, was denied outright in July. Police say Carl Bohm started a fire in February that destroyed the family home, injured his daughter, Amanda Bohm, and severely burned his wife.
“We’ve reported him multiple times, but nobody followed through,” said Amanda Bohm, 18, who was released from the hospital shortly after the fire. “The thing that’s wrong with our system is they don’t do anything until it’s too late.”
Franks-Bohm, 56, is in a medically induced coma. Carl Bohm, 65, will be booked into jail once he’s released from the hospital, Omaha police said.
Judges may be denying protection orders outright if the applications don’t meet the state’s guidelines, said Jerrad Ahrens, an attorney in the Omaha office of the divorce law firm Cordell & Cordell. State law requires that an application shows attempts to cause bodily harm or a credible threat that places a person in fear of bodily injury.
Lawmakers should also be aware of the strain that would be placed on the judicial system if hearings are required, the Nebraska Bar Association said, though it noted that it hopes to work with advocates to find a compromise.
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com