Defendant’s Appeal of The Trial Court’s Order Entering a Final Restraining Order (“FRO”) Against Him
Docket No. A-2377-20
Decided September 27, 2022
Submitted by New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided Defendant’s appeal of the trial court’s order entering a Final Restraining Order (“FRO”) against him.
The facts of the case are as follows: the plaintiff is the defendant’s aunt and they lived together in plaintiff’s home. In November 2019, plaintiff and defendant got into a verbal and physical confrontation, and the defendant threatened to kill the plaintiff four times if she did not move out in 30 days.
In May, November, and December 2020, defendant caused damage to the home, and verbally threatened to beat up and kill the plaintiff. In the summer of 2020, plaintiff told defendant about her rule about the lights needing to be turned out by 1:00 a.m. because of the electric bill and defendant stated that he would “kick [her] ass” if she turned off the lights.
On December 4, 2020, at 1:30 a.m. defendant started flashing a flashlight in plaintiff’s face. As a result, an argument ensued and then defendant punched plaintiff in the face, and the two began to wrestle. That same day, plaintiff applied for and was granted a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) against the defendant. On December 15, 2020, an amended TRO was entered against defendant that specified predicate acts of terroristic threats and harassment.
At the FRO hearing, the plaintiff testified that she felt that she needed a final restraining order because she did not feel safe in the house with the defendant and feared the defendant even after she obtained a TRO. The trial court found the plaintiff was a protected person under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, and granted plaintiff the FRO, reasoning that the plaintiff had a valid fear for her safety and needed a FRO to protect her from the immediate threat of domestic violence and the likelihood of reoccurrence. The trial judge found that the defendant committed the predicate act of terroristic threats when he threatened her with physical violence. The judge also found the extensive prior history of incidents between the parties supported her finding the predicate act of terroristic threats. The trial judge also found defendant committed the predicate act of harassment when defendant, on numerous occasions, screamed and yelled in plaintiff’s ear, flashed a flash light in the plaintiff’s face, pointed his finger in her face, and go to the kitchen in the middle of the night with a flashlight with the purpose to alarm or annoy the plaintiff.
On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court committed multiple acts of judicial misconduct by giving the appearance of religious bias, influencing the plaintiff’s testimony on direct examination through leading questions, permitting the plaintiff to speak to the allegations beyond the scope of the FRO, and repeatedly ignoring evidence damaging to the plaintiff and essentially switching the burden of proof.
The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling for the reasons expressed by the trial judge. The Appellate Court found the defendant’s arguments were not supported by the record and lacked sufficient merit. The court stated that the trial judge’s credibility determinations, factual findings, and legal conclusions are amply supported by substantial credible evidence adduced during the trial, and there is no indication that the trial judge engaged in any form of judicial misconduct or that she improperly considered allegations beyond the scope of the complaint.
Family Part judges must consider evidence of a previous history of domestic violence in determining: (1) whether the defendant acted with intent to harass or terrorize; (2) whether a FRO should be issued based on a predicate act; and (3) whether a FRO is needed to protect the plaintiff against future acts of domestic violence. In this case, the Appellate Court found the defendant committed the predicate acts of terroristic threats and harassment, and that a FRO was necessary to protect the plaintiff from further acts of domestic violence.
At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to defending against the issuance of a FRO or representing the plaintiff in order for them to obtain one. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.
We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of either party in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.