General Assembly passes Euer/Kazarian bill to
protect domestic violence victims


STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer and House Majority Whip Katherine Kazarian that would protect domestic violence victims from abusive litigation filed by abusers.

“Once a domestic violence survivor ends an abusive relationship and tries to move on, abusers will often file frivolous lawsuits just to get in the same room as, or further harass, the victim,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), who chairs the Senate Committee on Judiciary. “This bill will give courts the tools they need to dismiss suits that lack merit and protect victims from having their lives further disrupted.”

According to the RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence, abusive litigation occurs when perpetrators use the courts to harass a victim who is free from the relationship with multiple and frivolous legal claims to further harm and control them. Abusers may file baseless claims to maintain control and contact, retaliate, coerce, intimidate or inflict additional mental or emotional harm.

Abusive litigation also has a financial impact on victims, who may have to take time out of work to appear in court with their abuser, pay for child care during court and pay legal fees.

The bill (2023-S 0604A, 2023-H 5883A) would prohibit abusive litigation in the context of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. It would empower judges to dismiss a case or complaint upon a finding, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that the person who filed the case or complaint is doing so as a means to have further contact or abuse the person against whom the complaint was filed. The bill would also allow the court to impose sanctions against the party found to be using abusive litigation and award monetary compensation to the victim.

  “Our neighbors who have survived domestic violence have enough to deal with as they rebuild their lives,” said Whip Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence, Pawtucket). “This bill ensures they don’t also have to deal with perpetrators abusing the courts to harass them. I’m proud we were able to get it done.”

“This law will make a huge difference in the lives of survivors like me,” said Heather, a member of Sisters Overcoming Abusive Relationships (SOAR) who asked to use only her first name to protect her identity. “We will have less fear and fewer nightmares about going to court. We will not be financially and emotionally devastated. What we have been experiencing is being recognized as harmful and now it can be stopped when it happens. This is one more step forward to freedom.”

“We are so thankful for our sponsors, Senator Euer and Representative Kazarian, and the entire General Assembly for their support of this life changing bill. And we are grateful to all the domestic violence survivors, advocates and community members that worked with us to advocate for the bill's passage. We heard the desperate pleas for help from survivors and SOAR members - many of whom shared their harrowing stories in the hope that something would be done to stop this insidious form of abuse — and together, we acted.  We look forward to working with the courts once the law is enacted,” said Lucy Rios, executive director of RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence.