- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York’s highest court ruled Thursday that orders of protection can be appealed even after they have expired because of the stigma they carry for someone accused of domestic violence or other offenses.

The Court of Appeals, reversing a midlevel court, said the issue is not moot simply because the court order is no longer in effect.

A man identified in court papers only as Radcliff A. was accused by his 87-year-old aunt, in whose Manhattan apartment he was staying, of assault and harassment. She accused him of cursing and yelling at her and in a brief altercation grabbing and pushing her in 2009.

A Family Court issued an immediate order of protection. After a hearing, in 2011 that court found him guilty of second-degree harassment, ordering that he stay away for two years.

He appealed, but the case was delayed then dismissed as moot once the order expired.

However, his lawyer argued that prior findings of domestic violence are a factor in custody determinations and orders of protection are put in a statewide computer registry that courts and probation departments can search, and they are not removed when they expire.

Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam wrote in Thursday’s ruling that even now, if the order against Radcliff A. came to others’ attention, they would “almost certainly view him as a domestic violence offender … a decidedly pejorative label.” It could be especially damaging if he’s asked about it on an employment application, she said.

He can reverse that stigma if he wins his appeal of the Family Court decision, Abdus-Salaam wrote. Four other judges on the high court agreed. The case was sent back to the midlevel court to consider it.

“I was arguing that he never committed a family offense. … It’s just a very weak case against him,” attorney George Reed said. He’ll now try to prove that on appeal, adding that Radcliff’s aunt was cranky and didn’t want him around.

Many Family Court decisions carry stigmas, and it shouldn’t be necessary for people to have to prove each time how they’d be affected, Reed said. A man is “disgraced” if deemed a domestic violence offender, even if it’s an allegation of a low-level offense like this one because people don’t look at that, he said.

Attorney Eric Nelson, appointed by the Court of Appels to represent Radcliff’s aunt, identified in court papers only as Veronica P., said he was grateful that the top court had a chance to review the case, that there had been differences among midlevel courts on the issue.

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