California Court Discusses Demonstrating Judicial Bias in a Family Law Case

Domestic violence is a serious problem affecting many residents of California. Thus, the law allows victims of domestic violence to seek restraining orders preventing them from suffering further harm. Prior to granting an order, the court will hold an evidentiary hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence of violent acts against a person so as to warrant a restraining order. Judges are required to issue rulings based on the evidence alone and cannot impart their opinions on the matter. As such, if a judge demonstrates bias during a domestic violence hearing, it may constitute grounds for a reversal. The evidence needed to demonstrate bias was the subject of a recent California ruling in which both parties accused each other of domestic violence. If you are the victim of abuse by a romantic partner or family member, it is prudent to meet with a skilled California domestic violence attorney regarding your rights.

The Hearing and Subsequent Ruling

It is reported that in the spring of 2019, the wife filed a request for a domestic violence restraining order against the husband. A month later, the husband filed a request for a domestic violence restraining order against the wife. The court issued temporary orders retraining both parties and scheduled a hearing for cause. During the hearing, the wife testified in detail regarding numerous acts of abuse over the course of two years. The judge issued an order against the husband but declined to issue an order against the wife. The husband appealed, arguing that the judge demonstrated bias.

Demonstrating Bias in a Family Law Case

Under the California Domestic Violence Prevention Act, a court may issue an order restraining any person to prevent domestic violence from recurring and ensuring a separation between the parties involved if the party seeking the order presents reasonable proof of past acts of abuse. Abuse is defined as an act that causes a person to have a reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily harm. It also includes conduct that is enjoined by other statutes such as sexual assault, battery, and molestation.

In the subject case, after the wife’s case rested, the judge stated that the wife had presented prima facie evidence of domestic violence. The appellate court explained that, contrary to the husband’s assertion, the judge’s statement did not demonstrate bias. Specifically, the appellate court stated that the plain expression of an opinion by a judge that arose out of an observation of evidence and witnesses presented at trial does not show bias.

Further, rulings against a party do not demonstrate bias, even if they are incorrect. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the husband failed to demonstrate bias based on the trial judge’s statements and noted the judge also stated that the wife’s evidence was subject to cross-examination. As such, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Trusted California Attorney

Courts must review the evidence presented by the parties before issuing a ruling on a domestic violence issue and cannot impart their personal beliefs in order. If you are the victim of violent acts, you may be able to seek a restraining order and should speak to California domestic violence attorney Ethan M. Weisinger regarding your rights. You can reach Mr. Weisinger at 925-258-2020 or through the online form to schedule a meeting.

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