e-Journal Summary

e-Journal Number : 58875
Opinion Date : 12/16/2014
e-Journal Date : 01/26/2015
Court : Michigan Court of Appeals
Case Name : Rastelli v. Rastelli
Practice Area(s) : Criminal Law, Personal Protection Orders
Judge(s) : Per Curiam – M.J. Kelly, Cavanagh, and Meter
Full Text Opinion
Issues:

Whether there was sufficient evidence to support the respondent's conviction of criminal contempt for violating an ex parte personal protection order (PPO); In re Contempt of Rapanos; People v. Nowack; Brandt v. Brandt; The prosecution's burden of proof in criminal contempt proceedings; MCL 600.2950a(23); MCR 3.708(H)(3); People v. Little; "Stalking"; MCL 750.411h & i; Waiver; People v. Carter; Abandonment; PIC Maint., Inc. v. Department of Treasury; Whether the party who procured a PPO may hire a lawyer to prosecute a criminal contempt arising from the violation of the PPO; MCL 764.15b(7); MCR 3.708(G); DeGeorge v. Warheit; Whether the trial court violated respondent's right to confront his accuser and present a defense by limiting the scope of his cross-examination of petitioner; People v. King; Evidence of a plan or scheme; MRE 404(b); Harmless error; MCR 2.613(A); Judicial bias; The appearance of impropriety; MCR 2.003(C)(1); Caperton v. Massey Coal Co.; Presumption of judicial impartiality; Cain v. Michigan Dep't of Corrs.; The trial court's discretion to grant or deny a stay or bond pending appeal; MCR 7.209(E); Brown v. Wilmot

Summary

The court held that there was sufficient evidence to support the respondent-husband's conviction of criminal contempt for violating an ex parte PPO that prohibited him from a variety of actions involving the petitioner-wife. It also held that the trial court did not violate his right of confrontation, and that the presiding judge was not biased. The trial court sentenced him to serve two days in jail and ordered him to pay a $500 fine. On appeal, the court rejected his argument that the trial court erred in holding him in contempt because petitioner failed to show he violated the PPO, noting that his communications met the statutory definition of stalking, and that "[b]ecause the court had the authority to restrain the contact at issue and actually ordered respondent to refrain from the contact, the evidence that he engaged in the contact was sufficient to support his conviction." It also rejected his argument that the trial court violated his right to confront his accuser and present a defense by limiting the scope of his cross-examination of petitioner, holding that it was "enough that he violated the PPO by engaging in contacts with petitioner" that were expressly prohibited, and that any possible error by the trial court was harmless because "respondent's guilt was established through uncontested documentary evidence that was unrelated to petitioner's credibility." Finally, the court rejected his argument that he was entitled to a new trial because the presiding judge was biased. It held that the trial court did not violate his constitutional rights by prohibiting him from cross-examining petitioner on irrelevant matters, and because he "waived any challenge to the issuance of the PPO, and because petitioner established her prima facie case, [his] assertion of bias premised on the court's handling of these matters is meritless." Affirmed.

Full Text Opinion