Washington Appeals Court Upholds Anti-Harassment Protection Order

Washington civil protection orders are available to protect individuals from contact by someone who has harassed, threatened, or assaulted them.  Washington has several types of protection orders that may apply in various situations, including an anti-harassment protection order.  An anti-harassment protection order may be issued against a person who has harassed another.  Unlike a domestic violence protection order, it does not require evidence of a particular type of relationship between the parties.

A Washington appeals court recently considered an appeal of an anti-harassment order.  A woman had petitioned for an anti-harassment order against her ex-spouse’s new romantic partner.  The petitioner alleged the respondent harassed and threatened her through calls, texts, and social media.  The respondent was a resident of New Mexico.  The court issued the temporary anti-harassment protection order and scheduled a hearing.  Both women testified at the hearing.  The court ultimately issued a three-year anti-harassment order prohibiting the respondent from direct or indirect contact with the petitioner.  The respondent appealed.

The respondent argued the trial court did not have personal jurisdiction over her because she is not a resident of the state and has insufficient contact with the state.  She also argued that there was not any evidence that any of the contact “originated in the state of Washington.” The appeals court found, however, that the statute, RCW 10.14.155, allows jurisdiction over non-residents of Washington in some situations when the conduct occurred outside the state.  The statute provides for jurisdiction where the respondent’s conduct represents an “ongoing pattern of harassment that has an adverse effect on the petitioner,” if the petitioner is a Washington resident.  The petitioner in this case was a Washington resident.

A party may waive a lack of personal jurisdiction claim if she expressly or impliedly consents to the court exercising jurisdiction.  Consent to jurisdiction may occur when a party appears and argues the case on the merits.  In this case, the respondent appeared at the hearing and testified.  There was nothing in the record showing she had objected to jurisdiction at that time.  The appeals court found that she had waived the issue of personal jurisdiction.

She also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence, arguing there was no evidence she had made the communications.  Trial courts are given “broad discretion” in granting an anti-harassment order.  A court is to issue an anti-harassment order if it finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that unlawful harassment exists.  An appeals court reviews for substantial evidence of unlawful harassment, but defers to the trial court for credibility and persuasiveness of the evidence.

The respondent relied on her own testimony.  She had testified the phone number used to place the calls was not her number.  She stated a private investigator looked into it and that a “search engine” linked the number to someone else.  She suggested the petitioner had made the communications herself.

The appeals court noted that the trial court did not have to accept the respondent’s testimony.  The petitioner had provided a police report showing the phone number was associated with the respondent.  The petitioner had testified that the content of the messages suggested the sender had knowledge of private details of her marriage and was involved with her former spouse.  The trial court had found the respondent’s testimony was not credible.

The appeals court found there was sufficient evidence for the court to find the respondent had unlawfully harassed the petitioner.  The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s order.

Whether you are seeking or fighting a civil protection order, the Washington civil protection order attorneys at Blair & Kim, PLLC, can help you.  We also have the knowledge and experience to handle related criminal matters.  Call us at (206) 622-6562 to set up a consultation.

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