In late June, a group of women’s organizations in Pittsburgh including the Women’s Law Project sent a letter to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas protesting the appointment of Senior Judge Lester Nauhaus to preside over protection from abuse (PFA) contempt hearings.
Judge Nauhaus is an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court judge with a history of making controversial comments. Last year, he made headlines when he fined a defendant $1 for each time he “inappropriately touched” the 15-year-old victim by grabbing her in the crotch as she walked in the hallway during school.
As Pittsburgh Citypaper reported, that incident was just the latest in “a long line of questionable behavior regarding crime victims.”
PFA contempt hearings are proceedings that follow an alleged domestic abuser’s violation of a protection-from-abuse (PFA) order. They are among the most sensitive of proceedings, as an abuse survivor’s very life may hang in the balance. We believe Judge Nauhaus has not demonstrated the judicial temperament or understanding of domestic and sexual violence required for this assignment, given his history in the courtroom.
“I can’t think of a more inappropriate and dangerous assignment than to put Judge Nauhaus in charge of domestic abuse victims,” Susan Frietsche, senior staff attorney with the Women’s Law Project, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in response to the news. “He traumatizes people.”
We are happy and relieved to tell you that, after receiving our letter, the Court of Common Pleas decided that Judge Nauhaus’s will not be scheduled to preside over the PFA contempt hearings. We thank the Court for hearing our request and for working with the domestic and sexual violence advocacy community on this issue.
We hope that the court will work to ensure that PFA contempt hearings are given judicial priority and receive the resources to ensure that survivors are treated with dignity, fairness and compassion when they seek the protection of our legal system.
The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.
We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.