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Clarke v. Taylor

Supreme Court of North Dakota

October 29, 2019

Brianne Clarke, Petitioner
v.
Jared Taylor, Respondent and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of Stark County, Southwest Judicial District, the Honorable Dann Edward Greenwood, Judge.

          Brianne Clarke, petitioner; no appearance.

          Markus A. Powell, Dickinson, N.D., for respondent and appellant.

          OPINION

          Tufte, Justice.

         [¶1] Jared Taylor appeals from a domestic violence protection order prohibiting him from coming within 300 feet of Brianne Clarke for two years. We affirm, concluding the district court's findings are sufficient to support the issuance of a protection order.

         I

         [¶2] In February 2019, Brianne Clarke petitioned the district court for a domestic violence protection order against Taylor. Clarke stated she had been dating Taylor for approximately 16 months. Clarke alleged that after returning to Taylor's house from a party, they began arguing. Clarke alleged Taylor put his hand on a gun and told her to leave. Clarke stated she left the house because she feared for her life and safety. Taylor submitted an affidavit denying Clarke's allegations. After a hearing, the court found Taylor committed domestic violence by threatening Clarke and issued a domestic violence protection order. The order prohibited Taylor from coming within 300 feet of Clarke for two years.

         II

         [¶3] Taylor argues the district court erred in finding he committed domestic violence. He claims the court failed to make a specific finding about the threat made to Clarke and failed to find that Clarke was in actual or imminent fear of harm.

         [¶4] A district court's finding of domestic violence is a finding of fact that will not be disturbed on appeal unless it is clearly erroneous. Wolt v. Wolt, 2010 ND 33, ¶ 17, 778 N.W.2d 802. A finding of fact is clearly erroneous if it is induced by an erroneous view of the law, if no evidence supports it, or if, after reviewing the entire record, we are left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been made. Id.

         [¶5] An action under N.D.C.C. ch. 14-07.1 for a domestic violence protection order is a civil action primarily for injunctive relief. Niska v. Falconer, 2012 ND 245, ¶ 9, 824 N.W.2d 778. Under N.D.C.C. § 14-07.1-01(2), domestic violence is defined as "physical harm, bodily injury, sexual activity compelled by physical force, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, sexual activity compelled by physical force, or assault, not committed in self-defense." "Threats constitute domestic violence only if they constitute the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm." Niska, at ¶ 12 (quoting Lenton v. Lenton, 2010 ND 125, ¶ 10, 784 N.W.2d 131). When domestic violence is based on fear, the harm feared by the petitioner must be actual or imminent. Niska, at ¶ 9.

         [¶6] The district court issued a protection order on a fill-in-the-blank standard form, leaving blank the area for specific findings of domestic violence. On the record at the hearing on Clarke's petition, the court found that Taylor threatened Clarke by putting his hand on a gun and telling her to leave the house:

The law is replete with cases where it's sufficient that the court, under the circumstances that's presented, you can come to the conclusion as a result of implications, innuendo and the like, that this is a threat. And if, in fact, this was a situation where, as Miss Clarke says, Mr. Taylor put his hand on a gun while he's making comments to her to the effect, get the F out, I have virtually no trouble construing that as a threat. That is a threat. It's in the context of a domestic relationship. It is domestic violence if it's true. . . . .
I've concluded that there was domestic violence. There was a threat made, and that she's entitled to a domestic ...

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