About Us

Contact Us

February 24, 2003



If people were made of paper, this just might work

By Scott Harrison




Family Court (Part 1)

Since the day my wife falsely accused me, I have been tangled in two separate courts, with two separate sets of rules. Most of my time and worry has been directed toward Criminal Court.

The other court I’ve been tangled in is Civil Court. Civil Court is a sparkling clean, bright white marble palace in comparison to the grim old Criminal Court. I’ve never seen my wife at a single hearing at Criminal Court. Over the past sixteen months, I have seen her briefly a few times at the clean modern Civil Court. It is the only place we see each other. We have never spoken. Our eyes haven’t met across the courtroom. Compared to Criminal Court, Civil Court seems to be a “money court” because many of the issues are about money. Private parties and companies (mostly) come to do battle. A recent case there was about who caught a record-breaking baseball.  

I walked into one trial and took a seat in the back. I saw two teams of very well dressed lawyers talking with great seriousness about a series of editorial cartoons that had been enlarged on display boards. The question was: Which were going to be allowed into evidence? Which of these blow-up displays would the jurors be allowed to view?


I believe the case began when a person wrote a critical letter to a West Coast environmental organization and that group allegedly said something critical about the person or the letter. The person who wrote the letter became upset. So upset he decided his reputation and self-respect were seriously harmed. So much so as to launch a lawsuit.

The person who wrote the letter was an editorial cartoonist. The judge had gotten off his bench and was deciding which exhibits should be shown to jurors and which should not. He walked back and forth before them looking and rubbing his chin. I could see both parties were spending one hell of a lot of clean water and duck money (or ink and art paper money) putting on this show.

The lawyers were offering comments and replies now and then about which should be admitted. If any. These lawyers were brilliant. I know this because each time one lawyer spoke, I was sure of his reasoning and took his side. But moments later, when the other side spoke, I was certain that lawyer was right. Whoever was speaking, I was in full agreement with.

I was getting dizzy. They had a way with words that was magnificent. Can such people ever be married? Maybe their golden-timbered voices were what did it. Their fine suits didn’t harm either. I could see they had been at this case for months. But what on earth were they talking about? These people were tossing around thousands and thousands of dollars concerning two sentences in a letter that had ruffled some feathers? No, no, but that is madness! I must be missing something.

The special division of Civil Court I’ve been mixed up with is up on the fourth floor, where a row of courtrooms deal with family law. Divorce, property settlement, custody issues, juvenile and domestic violence, among other things. Criminal Court requires a 75–90% certainty to convict a person charged with a crime.  “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is the instruction given to jurors in Criminal Court. Civil Court requires merely a preponderance of the evidence to make a judgment. You need only 51% certainty to win.

There are big advantages to this lower threshold in some areas. For example, let’s suppose you are the victim of a violent husband, but the proof is not strong enough for the police to make an arrest or the DA to file a case in criminal court. Then for your protection you can take the matter to Civil Court, where the burden of proof is lower.

Days after I was arrested and forbidden to have any contact with my wife and forbidden to return to my home, even to pick up clothing, my wife went to Civil Court to apply for a second restraining order. In her written statement she enlarged and embellished her story against me.

In Criminal Court it was the police and DA who were after me. In Civil Court it was my wife. Because I loved my wife and wanted to be married to her, because she had done this terrible thing and now was rubbing it in by saying things that were not true, it hurt more. So on the day of the hearing I went in to earnestly try to avoid a second restraining order.

I have what I wrote in my journal that night after the hearing:

Tuesday October 30th 2001 7:59pm

The days just seem to follow one another. It was three weeks ago today that we had the disaster. Today I was in court with Khadija and in the same room with Khadija for the first time since October 9th. Indeed it’s possible this was the last time I will ever be in the same room and the last time my words will reach her directly. I knew this, so I was filled with pain and emotion. The court date was to go before a Family Court judge to review Khadija’s request for a permanent (three year) restraining order against me.

I got to court an hour early so I walked around Civic Center area thinking… thinking… thinking. Then I went in.. Up to the fourth floor. Room 403. I saw her down the hall… she saw me. She looked great. She was wearing white and black (same as me)… she ducked back to a bench out of view. I stayed way down the hall.

I saw her briefly half an hour later when I went into the courtroom and went towards where she was seated. I immediately went to the other side and never looked over. The courtroom is clean, friendly and luxurious compared to Criminal Court. I read the Koran (Quran) that Khadija had left at the apartment. When the judge came in I paid careful attention to all the cases before ours. It took three long hours and what wreckage of hurt, misery, threats, violence and betrayal. Friends betraying friends. Lovers betraying lovers. Lives out of control. Fathers kept away from former wives and children.

Most cases were cut and dry. The relationships were done and at issue might be the return of property. One man was more or less caught trying to stalk his former wife and get pictures of her with her new lover. Another guy just wanted his stuff out of a storage locker. All absent people were automatically given the three-year restraining order.

So our turn came. About 4:15. We both went forward and sat at opposite ends of the big wood table facing the judge (a woman who was trying to be meticulous and careful.) She asked if there was any objection to the restraining order being granted. I said “yes. I object.” I was surprised because my voice was so hoarse and stressed.

She then had us both stand and swear under penalty of perjury to tell the whole truth. I swore. Khadija swore. I stated my name and spelled my name. Khadija spelled her name. Then Khadija requested an Arabic speaking interpreter.

[To be continued.]