I didn't get involved in GamerGate due to a love or drama or because some girl was caught cheating on her boyfriend with five men in order to obtain free publicity for her video game. Whatever. Nor do I care about the video games industry. What caught my attention in GamerGate was an unconstitutional restraining order Zoe Quinn obtained against her ex-boyfriend, Eron Gjoni.
The restraining order was unconstitutional, as my legal analysis shows. I won't re-hash that here. What I want to focus on is how unfair the restraining order proceeding against Eron Gjoni was.
Zoe Quinn sought to obtain an order of protection against Eron Gjoni. To obtain an order of protection (called a 209a order), a judge had to issue it. Moreover, the judge held a hearing to determine whether or not to extend the date of the protection order.
I was able to obtain the transcript from the restraining order hearing. The transcript reveals two startling facts:
- Gjoni wasn't allowed to even make a free speech argument to the court.
- Gjoni was not allowed to cross-examine Zoe Quinn, in violation of the law.
Eron Gjoni was not allowed to present a First Amendment defense.
You read that correctly. When issuing a restraining order preventing a man from speaking out about the abuse he suffered, the trial court did not even allow Gjoni's lawyer to raise the issue.
The official court transcript provides:
"[Gjoni's lawyer]: Judge, may I be heard on the First Amendment issues and the restrictions placed upon the defendant, within the scope of the original order?
"The Court: Counsel, I'll leave that to your appellate rights. I've made my decision."
The judge made his decision without even allowing Gjoni's lawyer to argue the law.
Eron Gjoni was not allowed to cross-examine Zoe Quinn.
Under the law, Gjoni had certain rights. For example, he had the right to cross-examine Ms. Quinn.
Indeed, there is a manual judges are supposed to follow when conducting restraining order proceedings. Guidelines for Judicial Practice: Abuse Prevention Proceedings (PDF here), the manual issued to judges, provides:
At the hearing, the defendant has the right to counsel, to testify, to present witnesses, to cross-examine witnesses who appear, and to present information.
Id. at p. 161.
Both parties have a general right to cross-examine witnesses, but the judge should not permit cross-examination to be used for harassment or intimidation or for discovery purposes. Each side must be given a meaningful opportunity to challenge the other’s evidence.
Id. at 96. Did the judge recognize Gjoni's right to cross-examine witnesses before him? No.
Again, we look to the hearing transcript:
"The Court: There's going to be no cross-examination of the plaintiff."
You read that correctly. In the United States of America, in a courtroom where free speech principles are at stake, a sitting judge denied a man the most fundamental rights.
During the hearing, Gjoni was not given the opportunity to challenge Quinn's evidence at all. Nor was he allowed to cross-examine Quinn.
The Abuse Proceedings Manual cautions judges:
As recognition that its scope and nature has increased, the issue of domestic violence has become the focus of legitimate and increasing public concern. However, that concern must not be permitted to affect or diminish the court’s responsibility to remain neutral, to protect the rights of the parties in each case, and to address each case individually on its own merits. “Whether a defendant’s constitutional rights have been violated [in a c. 209A proceeding] will depend on the fairness of a particular proceeding.” Frizado v. Frizado, 420 Mass. 592, 598 (1995). See also, C.O. v. M.M., 442 Mass. 648, 656-659 (2004) (court found that defendant’s right to due process had been denied where defendant was not given the opportunity to present or cross-examine witnesses during a hearing on the question of continuing a temporary order). See Guideline 3:00, Ex Parte Hearings: General
After the transcript of the hearing surfanced, Quinn admitted she lied in court to the judge. She claimed her memory was bad, due to trauma.
Given that Quinn has been exposed for lying during a Congressional briefing, one finds it unlikely she merely "forgot" to tell the truth.
Yet it's undeniable Quinn lied in order to obtain and then extend an unconstitutional restraining order.
We now see why rights matters. Cross-examination allows liars to be exposed.
Zoe Quinn has committed fraud on the court, at Eron Gjoni's great personal expense.
Read next: Zoe Quinn, Cyber victim or Cyber bully?