It brought to mind the title of the George Gershwin song "They All Laughed" when a Santa Fe, N.M., family court judge granted a temporary restraining order against "Late Show" host David Letterman to protect a woman he had never met, never heard of, and lived 2,000 miles away from.
Colleen Nestler claimed that Letterman had caused her "mental cruelty" and "sleep deprivation" for over a decade by using code words and gestures during his network television broadcasts.
That ridiculous temporary restraining orders was dismissed in December, but according to a report released this week by Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting, or RADAR, the case was not a judicial anomaly but "the logical culmination of years of ever-expanding definitions of domestic violence." RADAR is a Maryland-based think tank that specializes in exposing the excesses of the domestic violence bureaucracy.
The New Mexico statute defines domestic violence as causing "severe emotional distress." That definition was met when Nestler claimed she suffered from exhaustion and had gone bankrupt because of Letterman's actions.
The New Mexico statute appears to limit domestic violence to "any incident by a household member," and Letterman, who lives in Connecticut and works in New York, had never been in Nestler's household. But New Mexico law defines household member to include "a person with whom the petitioner has had a continuing personal relationship," and Nestler's charge that Letterman's broadcast of television messages for 11 years qualified as a "continuing" relationship and thereby turned him into a household member.
The family court judge who issued the order, Daniel Sanchez, might have been predisposed to believe any allegation presented to him by a complaining woman even though she had no evidence. His own biography lists him as chairman of the Northern New Mexico Domestic Violence Task Force.
RADAR reports that only five states define domestic violence in terms of overt actions that can be objectively proven or refuted in a court of law. The rest of the states have broadened their definition to include fear, emotional distress, and psychological feelings.
The use of the word "harassment" in domestic violence definitions is borrowed from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's definition, which is based on the "effect" of an action rather than the action itself. In Oklahoma, a man can be charged with harassment if he seriously "annoys" a woman.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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