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J.B. v. R.B.

Supreme Court of North Dakota

March 22, 2018

J.B. and Jodie Jacobs, Petitioners
v.
R.B., Respondent and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of McKenzie County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable Daniel Saleh El-Dweek, Judge.

          Jodie Jacobs, petitioner; no appearance.

          Jeremy J. Curran, Watford City, N.D., for respondent and appellant.

          OPINION

          TUFTE, JUSTICE.

         [¶ 1] R.B. appeals from a district court order granting J.B. a two-year disorderly conduct restraining order against him. Because we conclude the district court abused its discretion in granting the disorderly conduct restraining order against R.B., we reverse.

         I

         [¶ 2] R.B. and J.B. began dating in April 2017 when they both lived in Vermont. Each was sixteen years old at the time. J.B. and her mother, Jodie Jacobs ("Jacobs"), moved to North Dakota. Jacobs stated that she noticed a change in J.B.'s behavior after the move, including J.B. being more distant from Jacobs and spending more time on her cell phone. Jacobs attributed this change to J.B.'s relationship with R.B.

         [¶ 3] Jacobs, on behalf of J.B., petitioned the district court for a disorderly conduct restraining order against R.B. The petition alleged the following events: R.B. threatening suicide, which caused J.B. to visit a counselor for three hours; R.B. stating that "J.B. is mine" to Jacobs; R.B. telling J.B. to stop posting pictures of herself smiling because he didn't want to see her happy without him; R.B. telling J.B. to not be friends with girls that smoke cigarettes because doing so would prevent her from becoming "the doctor she wanted to be"; R.B. telling J.B. to wear his ring and sweatshirt, to not speak to any guys "ever, " and to disrespect Jacobs; R.B. indicating to J.B. that if she did not do what she said she was going to do, "he would possibly hurt himself"; J.B. crying and telling Jacobs that she does not want to see R.B. die; R.B. telling Jacobs that "he will not stop" and that she cannot control J.B. when she is eighteen; and R.B. sending a message to J.B.'s Snapchat account that said "bad mother alert."

         [¶ 4] The district court issued a temporary restraining order. Following a hearing, the district court issued a two-year restraining order against R.B. R.B. appeals.

         II

         [¶ 5] R.B. argues the district court abused its discretion in granting the restraining order against him.

Under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31.2-01, the district court has discretion to grant a disorderly conduct restraining order and to conduct a hearing on a petition for an order. This Court will not reverse a district court's decision to grant a restraining order or to conduct a hearing absent an abuse of discretion. The district court abuses its discretion when it acts in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or unconscionable manner, when it misinterprets or misapplies the law, or when its decision is not the product of a rational mental process leading to a reasoned determination.

Hanisch v. Kroshus, 2013 ND 37, ¶ 9, 827 N.W.2d 528 (quotations and citations omitted). Disorderly conduct means "intrusive or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that are intended to adversely affect the safety, security, or privacy of another person." N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31.2-01(1). The district court may grant a restraining order if it finds there are "reasonable grounds to believe that the respondent has engaged in disorderly conduct." N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31.2-01(5)(d). Reasonable grounds is synonymous with probable cause. Tibor v. Lund, 1999 ND 176, ¶ 7, 599 N.W.2d 301.

         [¶ 6] A petition for relief must allege facts sufficient to show that an individual engaged in disorderly conduct. N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31.2-01(3); see also Mitzel v. Larson, 2017 ND 48, ¶ 12, 890 N.W.2d 817 (failing to allege specific facts or threats requires denying the petition, as a matter of law). To protect the respondent's right to due process, the contents of the sworn petition and any accompanying affidavit limit the issues the petitioner may testify to at the hearing. Holbach v. Dixon, 2007 ND 60, ¶ 7, 730 N.W.2d 613; Cusey v. Nagel, 2005 ND 84, ¶ 14, 695 N.W.2d 697. The most a petitioner may establish at the hearing is thus the full scope of allegations in the ...


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