A legislative proposal extending court jurisdiction for certain restraining orders or injunctions in cases of domestic abuse, child abuse or harassment could lead to an increase in false accusations, said Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend.
He said the legislation is overly broad and would promote frivolous injunctions or restraining orders to be sought against people who aren’t Wisconsin residents.
“This allows anyone in a domestic abuse injunction to bring a case in any county,” Grothman said, “even if it wouldn’t normally be brought there.”
Assembly Bill 247 and its companion Senate Bill 177 passed through the Senate Committee on Labor, Public Safety and Urban Affairs on Tuesday, with Grothman as the lone opponent.
But attorney Scott Kelly, chief of staff for bill author Sen. Van Wanggard, R-Racine, said the goal of the proposal is simply to provide legal safeguards for victims of domestic violence in other states who flee to Wisconsin.
“With the explosion of new media and social media,” he said, “you find people being harassed persistently from across state lines, and without this bill it’s difficult for a Wisconsin court to provide protection for those domestic violence issues.”
According to the bill, courts would have jurisdiction to grant restraining orders or injunctions against someone from another state based on four criteria: if the offense has an effect in Wisconsin; the petition was filed in Wisconsin and the alleged offender failed to respond; if the petitioner is a resident of Wisconsin; or jurisdiction is permitted under the U.S. or Wisconsin Constitutions.
The Family Law Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin declined to publicly endorse or oppose the legislation, in part because of its broadness, said section chair Tom Walsh.
He said there is concern that the bill’s vagueness doesn’t address the extent of harassment required to warrant a restraining order or injunction against someone in another state.
Walsh also said it is uncertain if Wisconsin residents would be subjected to the same jurisdictional guidelines in other states.
“Who really is covered and gets to be dragged in on one of these things?” Walsh said. “It’s unclear.”
But Walsh said there is merit to the proposal as well, in that it aims to provide protection for victims of abuse in other states.
“Anytime you can help someone in a domestic violence situation with restraining orders and do the most you can to protect them,” he said, “people are better off.”