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Aria Jewett – Lawyer John Phillips Argues for Bullying Victim Before Appellate Court

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Posted by Maria Mangicaro
Bullying Prevention Advocate

Published on Nov 9, 2013

Aria Jewett – Lawyer John Phillips Argues for Bullying Victim Before Appellate Court The Law Office of John M. Phillips is an award winning personal injury and wrongful death law firm. Our lawyers personally meet with and walk through the claims and trial process with clients. Our attorneys have been featured on every major network and have won many awards. We are licensed in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Find out more by contacting us at

Judges to decide when bully victims can get protection, after one beating or two

Jacksonville case involves attack on 8th-grade girl

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By Denise Smith Amos Wed, Nov 6, 2013 @ 7:20 pm | updated Thu, Nov 7, 2013 @ 7:19 am

Three judges in the District Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday about whether a bullying victim must wait for a second, or “repeat,” bullying instance before they or their parents can seek a protective injunction in civil court to keep the bully away from the student.

Also in question was whether a lower-court judge’s prior decision to ban a bully from attending any public school should remain reversed.

The appeal is the latest step in the legal case of Aria Jewett, a former Oceanway Middle School student who last spring was brutally beaten by a female classmate who bashed her head against a stone wall as the attack was videotaped. Initially, doctors suspected Aria suffered a skull fracture but have since downgraded her diagnosis to brain trauma.

Both girls, 8th graders at the time, now attend different high schools out of state. But their case goes on.

In May, Circuit Judge Henry Davis banned the girl accused of assaulting Aria from attending any Duval County school, not just her own. The ruling was part of a protective injunction sought by Aria’s mother, Melissia Thomas.

Later, a court overturned Davis’ ruling, saying he didn’t have authority to deny schooling to a student; that was the superintendent’s purview.

Wednesday’s appellate arguments looked at a different facet of the case. Most of the judges’ questions had to do with how many assaults must occur before a court can award a protective injunction forbidding contact between a bully and his or her victim.

John Phillips, the lawyer representing Jewett and Thomas, argued that state law allows a parent to seek a protective injunction if they suspect that the bullying might be repeated in the future. He also argued that the court should consider prior threats the girl made to Aria as potential violent incidents for purpose of the law.

“Florida does not have laws making bullying a crime. It has a system to prevent bully and victim from interacting, but as we have seen from this appeal, it is ambiguous,” Phillips said after his argument.

State law specifies four types of crimes for which victims can obtain protective injunctions in civil court: domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence and repeat violence. The law specifically allows victims of domestic, dating or sexual violence to seek injunctions if they have “a reasonable fear of imminent violence.”

But the law’s language for repeat violence is where the lawyers disagree.

The state law reads: “Any person who is the victim of repeat violence or the parent or legal guardian of any minor child who is living at home and who seeks an injunction for protection against repeat violence on behalf of the minor child has standing … to file a sworn petition for an injunction for protection against repeat violence.”

Jennifer Shoaf Richardson, one of several attorneys representing the accused teenager, argued that the law clearly calls for “repeat violence” before a minor can receive a protective injunction.

That wording was meant to curb possible misuse and over-use of protective injunctions, said Bryan Gowdy, another attorney working with Richardson on the case. Without the restriction, “any time there is a fight between two students, one can run to court and not bother to consult school officials and get a court order to ban another student from the schools,” he said.

Besides, young victims of violence can get protection in other ways, Gowdy said. For instance, a criminal judge or juvenile judge can order a violent defendant to stay away from the victim, to not contact them and to not commit another crime, “which would be the same thing basically as an injunction,” Gowdy said.

The judges briefly brought up Davis’ banning the girl from school.

Gowdy predicted that it will stay overturned, but Phillips said he was hopeful the judges intend to alter or support it entirely.

It is unclear when the appellate judges will announce a decision. It could be several weeks or several months, Gowdy said.

Denise Amos: (904) 359-4083

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