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After Salem, Mass. shooting, state launches review of domestic violence case

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An advocacy group says it is aware of other complaints regarding denied orders of protection by Judge Polly Hall.

The New Hampshire Judicial Branch announced it is conducting an internal investigation into a Hampton district court judge’s dismissal of a domestic violence petition involving a man who earlier this week allegedly shot his former partner and then killed himself in Salem, Massachusetts.

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The shooting came less than a month after Judge Polly Hall denied a final order of protection for the victim, who sustained critical injuries in the shooting. The state’s leading domestic and sexual violence advocacy group said it is aware of complaints made against Hall by other plaintiffs who were denied protective orders.

According to court paperwork, in September, a 33-year old Hampton woman received a temporary restraining order after detailing extensive physical and sexual violence by a former partner, Richard Lorman of Wilton.

In October, however, Judge Hall, who was nominated by Gov. Chris Sununu to be a district court judge in 2017, denied the woman’s request for a final domestic violence order of protection, ruling that “the court cannot find the defendant's conduct constitutes a credible threat to plaintiff’s safety.”

On Monday, Lorman, 55, shot the plaintiff around 5 pm near her workplace, according to multiple media reports, before killing himself.

Judge Susan Carbon will lead the state’s review into the case, according to a press release from the judiciary. The internal findings are expected to be submitted to the New Hampshire Supreme Court as early as next week, before being released to the public. The judicial system also announced it will form a task force to conduct a system-wide review of domestic violence cases in the court system.

That review is being welcomed by the N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

“Our hope is that the courts engage in a comprehensive review of all the restraining order petitions that are filed in New Hampshire, to ensure victims in potentially lethal situations are not denied the help and relief they need and deserve,” Lyn Schollett, executive director of the coalition, said.

Schollett said her agency is aware of prior complaints made against Judge Hall after dismissing requested orders of protection but said she was not yet able to share additional information about those cases.

The plaintiff in Hampton does not appear to have been represented by legal counsel during the October hearing, which Lorman failed to attend.

According to the coalition, 38 percent of petitions for final restraining orders are granted, while 12 percent of victims are represented by attorneys.

In her affidavit filed in September, the plaintiff described in detail repeated sexual abuse by Lorman, as well as near-daily threatening text messages and phone calls to both the plaintiff and her family members.

“His behavior seems to be escalating,” she wrote to the court.

If you are experiencing domestic or sexual violence, there is help available 24-hours a day by calling 1-866-644-3574 to reach the N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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