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Colleen Nestler

Colleen Nestler is a New Mexico woman who caused controversy in December 2005 when she briefly succeeded in obtaining a temporary restraining order against talk show host David Letterman, based on her allegations that he was sending coded messages to her in his television show.


In December 2005, Colleen Nestler, who alleges that David Letterman caused her "mental cruelty," briefly succeeded in obtaining a temporary restraining order against Letterman. In 1993, Nestler says she began sending "thoughts of love" to him, and that he responded with "code words & obvious indications through jestures (sic) and eye expressions" indicating his desire to marry her and make her his co-host. Nestler requested that Letterman not "think of me, and RELEASE ME from his mental harassment and hammering." According to Nestler, Regis Philbin, Kathie Lee Gifford and Kelsey Grammer were also involved. Surprisingly, District Judge Daniel Sanchez (Chairman of the Northern New Mexico Domestic Violence Task Force, according to his official biography) awarded the restraining order, which required that Letterman, who works in New York, stay at least away from Nestler, who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Letterman was also required not to threaten, harm, or annoy her, though it is not clear if this prohibits the use of "code words" on his show.

Nestler appeared in court on December 27, 2005 without counsel, admitting to Judge Daniel Sanchez that she had no evidence to support the allegations made against Letterman. She added that if Letterman or any of his representatives came near her, that she would "break their legs. After a flurry of commentary and a request to quash the order, Sanchez invalidated the order.

Letterman's lawyers called the order "obviously absurd and frivolous" and "an unfortunate abuse of the judicial process." A motion to quash the order noted that Sanchez lacks jurisdiction over Letterman, and that the case did not meet the legal requirements for such an order in part because Nestler never gave Letterman the necessary papers. Letterman's lawyers also requested that Nestler be barred from making future allegations against him, arguing that "While Ms. Nestler may deserve compassion and assistance, allowing her to bring claims against Mr. Letterman is not in her interests or in the interests of justice," and argue that Nestler's allegations could permanently damage his reputation.

Law professor Eugene Volokh doubted that the order will have much of an effect on Letterman, but considered the case "outrageous" because "a patently frivolous allegation" restrained Letterman's liberty "without any remotely conceivable justification." With regard to Sanchez, he concluded that "Either the judge read this carefully and thinks the order is well-founded, in which case he isn't a very smart judge. Or he didn't read this carefully, and on reflection must realize that he's made a mistake, in which case his statement (assuming that the newspaper accurately paraphrased them) that he didn't make a mistake and that he read Nestler's application seems less than candid."

Volokh's colleague, David Kopel, used the case as an opportunity to condemn the restrictions Federal Temporary Restraining Orders place on their targets in terms of self-defense, and the "feminist community" that supports such restrictions and encourages "the authorities always to 'believe the victim' who complains of intimate partner abuse." Kopel believes that the case shows that such restraining orders are issued too readily and are too restrictive.






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