A bill that would offer greater protections for stalking victims appears dead in the Legislature, after state judges raised concerns.
A bill that would offer greater protections for stalking victims will not get a full hearing by the Legislature after an intense lobbying campaign by state judges.
Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said that shortly after he introduced House Bill 2464 he was inundated by negative comments from superior- and district-court judges, as well as their lobbyists.
The measure, which would have allowed victims to petition the courts for a stalking-protection order, needed to pass out of the House Government Appropriations and Oversight Committee by last Friday, but it was not brought up for a vote, Goodman said.
King County Superior Court Judge Laura Inveen, who is president of the state Superior Court Judge’s Association, said victims can get the protections they need under civil anti-harassment orders that are already available.
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She said her organization was concerned that the proposal would push cases now being handled in municipal and district courts — where anti-harassment orders are filed — into the already overloaded superior-court system.
Under the bill, requests for stalking protection orders would be filed in superior court. Also, fees would be waived for the orders, unlike anti-harassment petitions.
“There is a concern that a lot of people who were going to anti-harassments would migrate to stalking,” Inveen said. “The litigant might want to take it into Superior Court because it (the case) wouldn’t have a filing fee.”
Goodman said the judges also argued that a stalking protection order would require more time to handle because the stakes for violating one would be higher, including jail time.
“There is more due process required,” he said. “The consequences are more serious.”
Goodman disputes the argument that an anti-harassment order — a type of legal remedy offered to squabbling neighbors or disputes over pets — can provide adequate protection to stalking victims.
“No one takes anti-harassment orders seriously because they end up being neighbors arguing over property or a nuisance rather than true, dangerous threats,” he said.
Under the legislation, police would immediately arrest a person found to be in violation of a stalking protection order. Police are not required to arrest someone suspected of violating a civil anti-harassment order.
Rather than create a new order, Inveen said the state should revamp what types of cases anti-harassment orders address so it is not used in petty disputes.
“What has happened is the anti-harassment legislation has morphed into a legislation where people are using it how it was never intended,” she said. “It was for the serious conduct. The concern (has been) adopting another statute rather than fixing the current legislation.”
Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff at the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, said stalking victims “are often left in a legal no man’s land when seeking protection from the court.”
“True stalking cases are very rare but can be very dangerous,” Goodhew said. “A stalking situation is qualitatively different from your true anti-harassment case.”
The stalking protection order proposed to bar the stalker from coming within a specified distance from the victim, prohibit the stalker from keeping the victim, or the victim’s family, under any type of surveillance, and ban the stalker from the victim’s home, school or work.
Goodhew pointed to the case of Tracy Lundeen, who has been stalked by the same man for more than 17 years. Because Lundeen and Shawn Moul never had a dating relationship — in fact they only had a few conversations while in junior high school — she was unable to get a restraining order against him.
Instead, she has had to rely on the civil anti-harassment order. Last month Moul was sentenced to more than 26 years in prison for 19 counts of violating the order and two counts of felony stalking.
Lundeen on Tuesday, said that she was tearful when she learned that the bill didn’t make it out of committee.
“What will it take? Until I am dead or someone in my family? I hope not,” Lundeen wrote in an email.
Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office is still looking for a way to “revive” the bill this year, said his spokesman Dan Sytman.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.