“The Best Stories are Told by Liars!”

Discussing Restraining Orders and Appeals
An Attorney Profile of John Siskopoulos

John S. Headshot

John V. Siskopoulos is a founding partner of Siskopoulos Law Firm, LLP, focusing on appellate and civil litigation and chronicled in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.  Reach him at 617-959-1628, or jvs@siskolaw.com, www.siskolaw.com, or at linkedin.com/in/johnsiskopoulos.

 Interviewer Liz Tice

With significant experience in handling restraining orders and restraining order appeals, what is your take on restraining orders in Massachusetts?

John V. Siskopoulos

Whether abuse prevention or harassment prevention orders, restraining orders are granted too liberally.  Most are quickly approved by Trial Court Judges.  Many times they are unnecessary and are meant to be a “control mechanism” in a relationship.  Lives can be ruined by having a restraining order issued against an individual.

Liz Tice

What do you mean?

John V. Siskopoulos

Let’s say a couple moves in together. One buys all the furniture, TV’s, stereo, etc. for the apartment.  The person who did not contribute anything claims abuse and seeks a restraining order.  The person who purchased everything for the apartment is now subject to a restraining order preventing them from returning to the apartment.  The one who purchased nothing is now in a fully furnished apartment.  In essence, absconding with $10,000 – $15,000 in personal property they didn’t buy.

Liz Tice

So how would you prevent this manipulation of the court system from happening?

John V. Siskopoulos

Many times people seeking a restraining order go pro se.  They are simply being dangerously cheap by not hiring an attorney – because pro se litigants frequently lose in court — the best storyteller usually WINS.
Sadly, consequences of losing a restraining order hearing can result in job loss and people even becoming unemployable.

Liz Tice

If restraining orders are won by the most persuasive storyteller, how would you change the way restraining orders are decided?

John V. Siskopoulos

The standard of review should be clear and convincing evidence.  A judge simply picking someone’s version of events is too low a threshold. “Some of the best stories are told by liars.”  A court should not select the best story but should only grant a restraining order based on clear and convincing evidence.

Liz Tice

So you would require a higher standard of review?  Anything else on how a judge should decide these type of cases?

John V. Siskopoulos

Yes, of course I would require a higher standard of review.  Additionally, each and every restraining order case should require a two page decision by the trial court judge.  We should know why and how the court decided to rule in someone’s favor.  A trial judge simply saying at the end of a hearing “I find that the preponderance of the evidence shows that a restraining order is required here” is not sufficient to deprive a person of their liberties.  It’s an intellectually lazy way to decide a case and also hampers a full opportunity for appellate review.

Liz Tice

How do you accomplish that?

John V. Siskopoulos

Many times neither party files motion papers – either in support or in position to the issuance of a restraining order.  What you often get is a transcript of a glorified shouting match between two individuals who don’t like each other.  Motion papers should be required, under law, in all restraining order cases.  That is why attorneys should be hired by both sides in these cases.  A shouting match is no way to decide a case.

Liz Tice

Anything else we should know about restraining orders?

John V. Siskopoulos

Many of the so-called victims try and create an artificial contact with the person the order has been issued against.  It’s a crazy method of trying to make one person create a violation of the order. Say you know your ex-spouse shops at a grocery store every Friday night and you casually show up at the store then demand police intervention.  An artificial contact with a person who has a no-contact order against them has been created – and this happens quite frequently.  As a result, I say that if a Judge finds that you purposefully or recklessly created the interaction, then the Judge should file a mutual restraining order against both parties.

Liz Tice

So hire an appellate attorney, require a two page decision by a trial court judge, and have motion papers
filed—and, on occasion, file a mutual restraining order against both parties?

John V. Siskopoulos

Essentially, yes.

About OfficeSolutionsPlusLLC.com – Owner and Author Elizabeth Tice

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Elizabeth Tice has owned OfficeSolutionsPlusLLC.com since 2007. The company specializes in State Certified Transcription, Depositions, Open Meeting Law and Public Hearing Transcripts and all types of Interviews and Meeting Minutes.

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