Brooklyn Law Review


A civil protection order can act as an important form of relief for an individual experiencing violence; however, it can also bring extreme complications and consequences for noncitizens. Unlike its intended purpose as a remedy separate from punitive state systems, civil protection orders can replicate the harm of the criminal legal system for noncitizens—barring someone from gaining immigration status, delaying applications, impacting international travel, and at its worst, resulting in deportation. Despite the high stakes nature of these proceeding, for the most part, there is no right to assigned counsel in civil protection order cases. As a result, many individuals proceed pro se. Therefore, it is likely that many noncitizens go through this process without fully understanding their own rights or the potential consequences for their family. This note aims to look at how the intersection of the immigration, criminal, and family legal systems leaves noncitizens--on both sides--particularly vulnerable to harm through civil protection orders. The note suggests that expanding the right to assigned counsel in civil protection order cases is essential, but that ultimately more is needed. Intervention at each stage of the process—prior to contact with the family regulation system, the temporary order stage, the full order stage, and the post-order period--must occur. Finally, it concludes by considering how the only true effective way to address this harm is by disentangling and dismantling these systems.