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Hart v. Griffis

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

January 15, 2020

Jennifer Lee Hart, Former Wife, Appellant,
v.
Stanley H. Griffis, III, Former Husband, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Levy County. David W. Fina, Judge.

          Robert Bauer and Maria Youngblood of Bauer Law Group, P.A., Gainesville, and Abigail Beebe of The Law Office of Abigail Beebe, P.A., West Palm Beach, for Appellant.

          Stanley H. Griffis, III, pro se, Appellee.

          B.L. Thomas, J.

         Jennifer Lee Hart challenges an injunction against domestic violence issued by the trial court. We reverse.

         Facts

         Former Wife and Former Husband were married and had five minor children in common. They were divorced in May 2013, but shared parental responsibility. In the summer of 2018, the parties agreed on the children attending school in Gilchrist County, but in August 2018, Former Wife objected to the arrangement. The family court ordered the children remain enrolled in Gilchrist County.

         Former Husband later filed a Petition for Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence, claiming Former Wife committed or threatened to commit domestic violence. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court granted the petition for injunction. The trial court held that Former Husband was a victim of domestic violence or had reasonable cause to believe he was in imminent danger of becoming a victim by Former Wife. The trial court found that Former Wife's past conduct was intentional and willful with the purpose of causing Former Husband to be removed as a judge or face legal reprimands that could affect his ability to continue in office.

         Analysis

         "A trial court has broad discretion to grant an injunction, and we review an order imposing a permanent injunction for a clear abuse of that discretion. But the question of whether the evidence is legally sufficient to justify imposing an injunction is a question of law that we review de novo." Pickett v. Copeland, 236 So.3d 1142, 1143-44 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018) (internal citations omitted).

         Any person who is a victim of domestic violence or has reasonable cause to believe he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of any act of domestic violence has standing to file a petition for an injunction for protection against domestic violence. § 741.30(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2019). Domestic violence is "any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member." § 741.28(2), Fla. Stat. (2003).

         Former Husband's petition alleged past incidents of assault and stalking. However, the alleged incidents of assault and verbal abuse occurred more than four years before Former Husband filed his petition, and are, therefore, too removed in time to support the injunction. See Curl v. Roberts o/b/o E. C., 279 So.3d 765, 767 (Fla. 1st DCA 2019) (holding "[i]ncidents remote in time by as little as a year are insufficient to support entry of a new injunction, absent allegations of current violence or imminent danger that satisfy the statute").

         Former Husband alleged Former Wife contacted the court administrator and the State Attorney in 2018 to have him investigated and prosecuted, which constituted stalking. Stalking is defined as the "willful[ ], malicious[ ], and repeated[ ] follow[ing], harass[ing], or cyberstalk[ing of] another person." § 784.048(2), Fla. Stat. (2019). Section 784.048(1)(a) defines "harass" as "engag[ing] in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose." (emphasis added). In addition, "[a]n injunction against domestic violence requires malicious harassment that consists at the very least of some threat of imminent violence, which excludes mere uncivil ...


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