A New Jersey judge has suggested guidelines for other judges to follow in domestic violence cases in which a plaintiff who is seeking a restraining order is actually the one who instigated the violent act.
Ocean County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Jones, in an unpublished opinion decided in July but released on Nov. 10, said a defendant who is facing a restraining order can use provocation as a defense, particularly if he or she has no prior history of violence and was merely acting out in response to the plaintiff’s actions.
“Even the most non-violent, docile and peace-loving of individuals may sometimes be provoked into acting impulsively, immaturely and regrettably, in direct and immediately response to such instigation,” Jones said in R.C. v. R.W.
The case involves a man, R.C., and a woman, R.W., who had been living together for several years and who had two children. R.C. worked to support the family and R.W. took care of the children and was studying to be a dental technician, the opinion said.
The couple had two cellphones, both in R.C.’s name, but R.W. had the exclusive use of one of them. They also had two cars, a Nissan and a Buick. Both cars were in R.C.’s name, but R.W. used the Buick and considered it her car and helped pay for it, the opinion said.
R.W. also had bought R.C. a Sony PlayStation video game console for his birthday, but the children used it as well, according to the opinion.
By June 2015, the relationship began to deteriorate to the point where R.C. turned off the electrical service to their apartment, prompting R.W. to move, with the children, to her mother’s house. R.C. eventually moved to his cousin’s house, the opinion said.
R.W. sought no child support and R.C. did not take action on custody or to claim possession of the Buick, the cellphone R.W. used or the PlayStation, the opinion said.
Things turned ugly on July 12, 2015, when R.C. went to where R.W. was living and, because he suspected she was dating someone else, demanded to see her cellphone. He grabbed the phone from her and eventually discovered that she had been communicating with another man, the opinion said.
R.C. called R.W. a “wh*re” and opened the trunk to the Buick, demanding that the PlayStation and the Buick be given to him. R.W. objected and said the Buick was the only source of transportation for herself and the children, the opinion said.
At that point, R.C. picked up a cinderblock and threw it through the rear window of the Buick, shattering it. R.W. responded by throwing a brick at R.C.’s Nissan, damaging the body. R.C. then threw several bricks through the Buick’s other windows, rendering it non-drivable, the opinion said.
R.C. filed a domestic violence complaint against R.W. and sought a restraining order, the opinion said.
Jones denied the request, however.