e-Journal Summary

e-Journal Number : 54665
Opinion Date : 05/23/2013
e-Journal Date : 06/04/2013
Court : Michigan Court of Appeals
Case Name : Bloch v. French
Practice Area(s) : Personal Protection Orders
Judge(s) : Per Cuiam – Ronayne Krause, Gleicher, and Boonstra
Full Text Opinion
Issues:

Whether the facts found by the trial court were sufficient to justify continuation of the PPO; MCL 600.2950a(1); "Stalking"; MCL 750.411h(1)(d); MCL 750.411i(1)(e); "Willful"; Jennings v. Southwood; MCL 750.411i(1)(f); "Course of conduct"; MCL 750.411h(1)(a); "Harassment"; MCL 750.411h(1)(c); "Unconsented contact"; MCL 750.411h(1)(e); People v. White; Review; Pickering v. Pickering; Sweebe v. Sweebe; Hill v. City of Warren; Hayford v. Hayford

Summary

The court held that under the circumstances, the trial court incorrectly interpreted and applied MCL 600.2950a, as the evidence did not support that respondent-French had repeatedly harassed petitioner-Bloch. Thus, the trial court erroneously continued the PPO, and the court reversed. Once in an attorney-client relationship, French and Bloch now "detest" each other. "During an unplanned, 'chance' encounter at the courthouse, both behaved childishly and churlishly, tossing profane insults back and forth. The next day, French drove by Bloch's home and made a threatening gesture." Bloch applied for an ex parte PPO. The trial court issued the PPO and refused to terminate it after a hearing. "At the hearing, Bloch admitted that he deliberately sat down next to French after French initiated the courthouse name-calling, and intentionally engaged in mutual verbal combat. A PPO may issue when the petitioner demonstrates a pattern of unconsented, uninvited contact. As Bloch consented to and willingly joined in the slur-fest, this event does not qualify as unconsented contact." French argued that as a matter of law, the facts found by the trial court were insufficient to justify continuation of the PPO. Because he "neither planned nor intended the parties' initial encounter in the courthouse and (by his own admission) Bloch willingly engaged in the hostile repartee," the trial court incorrectly considered this event as one of the two predicate stalking or aggravated stalking episodes necessary for continuing the PPO. "French's reaction to Bloch's final insult - balling up his fists and threatening to knock Bloch's teeth 'through the back of [Bloch's] throat' indisputably would cause a reasonable person to feel frightened, as would the pointing of the mock-pistol. But to satisfy the statutory requirements, a PPO may issue only upon a showing of 'a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual.'" The court considered whether French's actions at the courthouse and later constituted a "willful course of conduct" and "harassment" as those terms are defined in the statute. The facts as Bloch described them established "a mutually undertaken pattern of consented contact. By displaying his middle finger when he encountered French on the street, Bloch exhibited his willingness to engage in petty behavior." He voluntarily continued the conflict "by sitting down next to French at the courthouse and lighting French's fuse with the rape-charge reference. This conduct is utterly inconsistent with that of an unwilling victim. Bloch not only acquiesced to contact with French; his question invited a response." While the court did not condone French's conditional threat, "it was not made to an unconsenting victim."

Full Text Opinion