Denial of the petitioner's request for a PPO against the respondent (a probation officer); Pickering v. Pickering; Sweebe v. Sweebe; Esselman v. Garden City Hosp.; MCL 600.2950; MCL 600.2950a(1); MCL 750.411h; Kampf v. Kampf ; Whether respondent owed a duty of confidentiality toward petitioner; Whether petitioner was entitled to a PPO against respondent because she had advised a probationer to seek a PPO against petitioner; MCL 750.411h(1)(c); Petitioner's occasional references to the conduct of one of the lower court judges
The court held that the trial court properly denied the petitioner's request for a PPO against the respondent. After a hearing to address petitioner's request for a PPO, the referee made the following findings - (1) that petitioner failed to present any evidence indicating that respondent had engaged in any behavior that would support the issuance of a PPO and (2) that respondent owed no duty of confidentiality to petitioner. The referee made a recommendation that the petition be denied. The trial court denied the petition in an order that referenced the referee's recommendation. In order to claim that respondent had engaged in stalking behavior, petitioner relied on the definitions in MCL 750.411h(1). Petitioner alleged that he contacted respondent, who is a probation officer, on two occasions to report that one of her probationers had violated the terms of her probation. According to petitioner, respondent revealed petitioner's identity as the person who had reported the violation and, as a result of the disclosure, he suffered emotional distress. However, respondent testified that she did not reveal petitioner's identity to the probationer involved, but that the probationer "guessed" petitioner's identity. Also, respondent alleged that petitioner initiated the contact on both occasions, either by sending a letter or calling respondent. Petitioner presented no admissible evidence to contradict this testimony. Thus, the court held that the facts presented did not support a finding of a willful course of conduct on the part of respondent, or harassment of petitioner. Even if the court were to assume for the sake of argument that respondent did disclose petitioner's identity, it concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying petitioner's request for a PPO. Petitioner failed to establish that respondent engaged in behavior that, even if true, would constitute stalking and thus merit the issuance of a PPO. The court could not agree with petitioner's characterization of respondent's alleged conduct as "harassment." A review of the record demonstrated no conduct on respondent's part that would constitute harassment under the statute. Also, while petitioner asserted that he suffered severe emotional distress as a result of the alleged disclosure and introduced the testimony of a friend who indicated that petitioner has "changed" and seemed to be under "emotional distress," the clear language of the statute requires that the emotional distress complained of result from conduct that would cause a "reasonable person" to feel emotional distress. It was petitioner who initiated contact with respondent. When he made his reports he did not ask to remain anonymous, and there was no evidence in the record to support a finding that petitioner expected to be harmed or to suffer other concrete reprisals by presenting respondent with this information or by having his identity revealed. The court failed to see how a person who voluntarily initiated contact with a probation officer under such circumstances to report a probation violation could reasonably suffer emotional distress upon having his identity revealed. Affirmed.
Full Text Opinion
State Bar of Michigan
306 Townsend St
Lansing, MI 48933-2012