Restraining Orders Can’t Prevent Tragedies

By Attorney Gregg Herman
October 22, 2012

The horrible incident at the Azana Spa in Brookfield on Sunday shows the futility of restraining orders in certain cases.

After all, if the perp intends to take his own life, he is not going to be deterred by the threat of arrest and imprisonment.

In fact, I suspect that there are certain cases where the victim might actually be safer without a restraining order.  Although these murder/suicides are, fortunately, rare in certain cases a restraining order may have the effect of waiving a red flag before a mad, angry bull.

There are not a lot (or maybe, any) good options.  Going into hiding makes the victim into a prisoner.  Even a bodyguard may easily become a victim – after all, why would the perp care how many people he kills?

There are some who call for a ban on guns or criticize the police for not going to the perp’s home and seizing his guns.  Not only would this not work — how difficult is it to get a gun illegally? — but it would put police officers at risk as one of the most dangerous parts of an officer’s job can be to arrest or disarm a domestic violence suspect.

Also, our mental health knowledge has not progressed to the point of differentiating between those who are truly are dangers to themselves or others.  To lock up everyone who is angry at a spouse or at the system will end up with a lot of people locked up who would never really harm a fly.  As a divorce lawyer, it is not uncommon to have a client or potential client postulate about harm coming to the other party.  So far, none has actually done any harm.

So, while there is a tendency to want to find a meaning in tragedy and a means of preventing it in the future, such efforts need to include the intent to avoid doing more harm than good.  It is evil to harm innocent people.  There is real evil in the world.  Some of it cannot be prevented.  It appears that Sunday’s killing may fit within that category.

Attorney Gregg Herman is a founding partner of Loeb & Herman S.C. in Milwaukee, WI. He practices family law exclusively, and can be reached via e-mail or by calling (414) 272-5632.