Redefining the Family Offense of Disorderly Conduct

by Mallory McGee

CCC memo

In Cassie v. Cassie, a recent decision from the Second Department of the Supreme Court Appellate Division, the Court decided that the petitioner did not meet the required burden to establish the family offense of disorderly conduct, and directed that an order of protection be reversed. Consistent with the First and Fourth Departments, the Court held that to establish the family offense of disorderly conduct, Family Court Act §812 (1), the petitioner is required to show that the respondent “intended to cause, or recklessly created the risk of, causing public inconvenience, or harm,” in accordance with Penal Law §240.20.  The Courts’ rulings run counter to the legislative history and the intent behind Family Court Act §812 and have the potential to adversely affect future domestic violence victims.

The facts of this case, like most domestic relations matters, are in dispute. There was an argument between the petitioner and the respondent followed by a somewhat violent altercation near the stairwell of their home while their two daughters were upstairs and did not witness anything. The Court found that this incident did not cause any public ramifications or create the risk thereof. However, the inherent nature of family offenses requires a more personal, case-by-case analysis.

I agree with the Court in saying that the family offense of disorderly conduct can be unintentionally merged with the family offense of harassment if courts are not careful. However, I do not think that the solution to this issue is forcing proof of an intention to cause public ramifications, which will almost never be possible because the conduct in family offenses is most often intended for a specific party, not the public.… <Read More>

NYLS Domestic Violence Panel: The Intersection Between Domestic Violence and Family Law

By Emily de la Vega and Gabriel Hisugan

The Domestic Violence Project hosted its annual domestic violence panel on October 23, 2013, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The panel was intended to give first year and continuing law students a first-hand look inside the various issues surrounding domestic violence. The panel included four distinguished members from the family law community: Referee Emily Martinez, a Custody, Visitation, and Order of Protection Referee from Brooklyn Family Court; Elizabeth Dank, the Program Director of the Staten Island Domestic Violence Response Team (DVRT) with the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence; Shani Adess, a staff attorney with the New York Legal Assistance Group; and Cynthia Domingo-Foraste, the Director of the Domestic Violence Law Project at Safe Horizon. The panel was designed to include members of both the legal and social services communities in order to shed light on the crucial role each field plays in addressing the issue of domestic violence.

The panel responded to and discussed an interactive fact pattern designed to illustrate a situation of domestic violence. Throughout the discussion of the fact pattern, each member of the panel had the opportunity to explain her organization’s role in offering help to a victim. The fact pattern touched on many issues including the effects of unemployment, the lack of resources available to victims, and children being present during the violence. As the discussion developed, new facts were introduced in order to demonstrate the complexity of issues often faced by victims.… <Read More>

Supervised Visitation Leads to Tragedy

Josh Powell with sons Charlie and Braden

Shortly prior to the tragic death of Charlie and Braden Powell this week, Pierce County Superior Court Judge, Kathryn Nelson, ordered a psychosexual evaluation of their father, Josh Powell, as a requirement of regaining custody of his children aged 5 and 7. According to Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney, Mark Lindquist, the situation may have been untenable to the control-obsessed father: if he refused to take the test, he would lose custody of the children; if he flunked the exam or refused to fully cooperate, he would also lose custody. Sometimes referred to as a sexual-deviancy examination, a psychosexual evaluation is lengthy and intrusive, taking upward of 30 hours to complete. Often used in testing sex offenders who have been civilly committed, the exams assess an individual’s personality, sexual history, potential risk factors and other patterns in determining and identifying possible sexual addictions.

Powell initially lost custody last fall in a battle with the state and his in-laws after his father, with whom he and the boys resided, was arrested on voyeurism and child-pornography charges. These allegations and other revelations about Josh Powell’s upbringing led to the judge’s decision to order the psychosexual evaluation prior to determining whether Powell could regain custody of the two boys.

During a court-ordered supervised visit on Sunday, Josh Powell attacked his children with a hatchet before setting fire to his home. Supervised visitation can be ordered by a judge when there are concerns about the protection and safety of a child in the company of a parent.… <Read More>

Keeping Families Together & Paying Less To Do So

We have all heard of a sad story that goes something like this: a mother makes a bad choice and is now charged with a felony and her innocent children are faced with being placed in foster care and all that comes along with it. Now, imagine an alternative. Imagine a situation where this mother serves her sentence – while keeping her family intact.

In 2008, the Brooklyn District Attorneys office created a family incarceration program in order to provide an alternative for these mothers who would otherwise be incarcerated and separated from their children. Instead, these women have the opportunity to serve their sentences in their own apartment at Drew House with their children while being monitored and fulfilling the Court’s mandates.

The women at Drew House are homeless mothers who have committed crimes ranging from drug possession to assault. The New York Times recently published an article highlighting Drew House and the stories of some of its women. One such woman, Ms. Urquidez, is a 36-year old victim of domestic violence battling bipolar disorder who was charged with burglary in 2009. Drew House helped her turn her life around. Since entering the program she has overcome her drug addiction, learned how to cope with bipolar disorder, has a restraining order against her sons’ father, and has completed her court mandate to take part in the Drew House program. Ms. Urquidez is beyond grateful for the program and credits the program for providing her two sons with stability claiming, “They’re living life how a kid is supposed to live”.… <Read More>

Man Shoots Wife Before Divorce Trial

Arguably it can go without being said that a divorce may cause a negative psychological effect on those involved.  While many divorces end without long-lasting complications, many do not.  Dr. Robert Segraves, a psychiatrist that completed his residency at the University of Chicago Medical Center, points out that “divorced men and women had the highest ratings of mental disturbance” when compared to those married, single, or widowed.  For alleged murder suspect from Queens, Guerino Annarumma, 52, the mental affect of an impending divorce lead to a deadly altercation between his stepdaughter and estranged wife, Olga Annarumma.

The couple had been married for five-and-a-half rocky years, though they had been estranged since 2009.  Records show a history of orders of protection against Guerino and in October of 2009, Guerino was arrested and convicted of aggravated harassment for threatening to kill Olga.

According to Guerino’s grizzly account given to police, he shot and killed Olga’s daughter first before shooting and critically injuring Olga hours before their trial was scheduled to start. That trial should have began at 2 p.m. Monday in Queens Supreme Court, however, neither client showed. The NY Daily News reported that despite a history of violence, Olga’s lawyer, Helene Sherman was “in shock” when she heard the news, saying that she never thought Guerino would follow through on his threats.

As horrific as the account may seem, tales of domestic violence occur rather frequently.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, everyday 3-4 women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends and 1 in 4 women will experience some form of partner violence during their lifetimes.… <Read More>