California Lawyer Becomes Subject to Restraining Order Himself
There’s an old saying that it “ain’t your day”. That’s probably how a northern California attorney felt –and continues to feel—after a judge granted a two-year restraining order against him and in favor of his wife, only to have the wife successfully seek an order “renewing” the restraining order, which resulted in five years being added on to the additional two.
The case, Marriage of Carlisle, is confusing because after the initial restraining order, the husband (“William”) appealed. While the Court of Appeal was considering the appeal, the wife (“Carol”), who is also an attorney, went for the jugular and got the restraining order “renewed”. By way of background, in California, initial restraining orders can last up to five years, but before the time on the restraining order is up, the protected person may ask the judge to “renew” the restraining order. When this happens, the judge basically has three choices: deny the renewal request; grant a renewal for five years; or grant it permanently.
After this renewal –again, it was for five years—William appealed again. And that’s what this blog is about. He argued a lot of things, including his belief that while the initial restraining order was being considered on appeal, the trial judge had no authority to modify or extend that restraining order.
Writing for a unanimous three-justice panel, the Hon. William J. Murray, distinguished between modifying the terms of a restraining order, and merely extending one. In other words, putting aside the terms of the order, the length can be extended while the higher court is deciding what to do about the appeal.
That is the basic story of this case. But, as stated above, a lot of weird things happened on the way to the Court of Appeal decision. For example, four days before the hearing on the original restraining order, William was apparently arrested for assaulting a process server and for vandalism. A year later, he ended up pleading no contest to one or more of those charges. (A plea of no contest is similar to a guilty plea.) There was also evidence that after William was released following his arrest for assaulting the process server, he broke into Carol’s house. William – according to his wife—also had previously used a tracking device on her car.
Carol also said that William would embarrass her at the small courthouse where they both practice, at one point allegedly stating in a loud voice, “I never should have gotten married”. Apparently in pleadings filed with the trial court, William said that Carol had an undiagnosed brain tumor, was menopausal, () was delusional, that she had a spooky demeanor, and that she was paranoid”.
The renewal request was granted on April 14, 2017. The judge, the Hon. Vicki Ashworth, noted that “[t]ranquility, calmness of another is now within the penumbra of what is defined as domestic violence in the State of California”. At another point, the judge said that domestic violence is “simply disturbing the peace. And that can be threats of violence, stalking intimidation, you know, just not leaving somebody else alone”.
Because the standard for renewing a restraining order is only a finding that the protected party has established, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he or she has a reasonable apprehension of future abuse, it is not surprising that Carol won.
This case arose out of El Dorado County, but the Court of Appeal decision with respect to extending a restraining order while the matter is being appealed is binding on all lower court judges and attorneys throughout California. This is because the decision was certified for publication and therefore is precedent in the Golden State.
The moral of the story is not to behave in such a way that a restraining order gets issued in the first place. Because if it does, it is not that hard to have it “renewed”, and if a restraining order is “renewed”, it could last forever. On the other hand, if you are the victim of domestic violence and are disappointed that the judge only grants your restraining order for a limited period of time, you can go back to court later and seek “renewal”. Who knows, but maybe at the renewal stage, the restraining order will be made permanent.
Restraining orders affect a lot of things, including custody and spousal support. Also, people who are subject to restraining orders may not have guns.