may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Maurice Jay Jensen, et al., petitioners,
Timothy Lewis Schacher,
Filed June 17, 1997
Washington County District Court
File No. C8964632
Philip G. Villaume, M. Michael Halverson II, Philip G. Villaume and Associates, 7900 International Drive, Suite 675, Bloomington, MN 55425 (for appellants)
James Walsh, 1597 Cedar Lane, Newport, MN 55055 (pro se respondent)
Patricia Walsh, 1597 Cedar Lane, Newport MN 55055 (pro se respondent)
John G. Westrick, Marcia McDowall-Nix, Westrick & McDowall-Nix, P.L.L.P., 400 Minnesota Building, 46 East Fourth Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Schacher)
Considered and decided by Short, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from the trial court's dismissal of their petition for a harassment restraining order, Maurice and Patricia Jensen and William and Celeste Spooner argue the trial court: (1) erred in requiring them to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the alleged harassers acted with specific intent to harass them; and (2) made clearly erroneous factual findings. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
Where a court weighs statutory criteria in light of its findings of fact, its conclusions include mixed issues of fact and law. Maxfield v. Maxfield, 452 N.W.2d 219, 221 (Minn. 1990). In such a case, this court may correct the trial court's erroneous application of the law, but reviews the trial court's ultimate conclusions under an abuse of discretion standard. Id. On appeal, we will not set aside a trial court's factual findings unless clearly erroneous, but review de novo questions of statutory construction. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (factual findings); Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985) (statutory construction).
repeated, intrusive, or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that are intended to adversely affect the safety, security, or privacy of another, regardless of the relationship between the actor and the intended target.
Id., subd. 1(a)(1) (1996). The Jensens and Spooners argue the trial court erred in requiring them to prove, by the preponderance of the evidence, that the alleged harassers specifically intended to harass them. We disagree. The unambiguous language of the harassment statute dictates that prior to issuing a restraining order, the trial court must find the alleged harasser acted in a way that was intended to affect adversely the victim's safety, security, or privacy. Id.; see Davidson v. Webb, 535 N.W.2d 822, 825 (Minn. App. 1995) (holding trial court's findings were sufficient to show alleged harasser intended to affect adversely plaintiff's safety, security, or privacy). Thus, a necessary element of a harassment claim is proof of specific intent on the part of the alleged harasser. See Minn. Stat. § 645.08(1) (1996) (mandating that words and phrases contained in statutes be construed according to their common and approved usage); Schaeffer v. Newberry, 235 Minn. 282, 290, 50 N.W.2d 477, 482 (1951) (noting well-established rule of statutory construction that every term of a statute must be given meaning when possible). To interpret the statute as requiring only general intent would run counter to traditional principles of statutory construction and would produce absurd results; deviating from the statute's clear language would allow acts resulting from pure negligence to form the basis of a harassment suit. See Minn. Stat. § 645.17(1) (1996) (providing presumption that legislature does not intend absurd results); Country Joe, Inc. v. City of Eagan, 548 N.W.2d 281, 284 (Minn. App. 1996) (holding courts should assume, in construing statutes, that legislature did not intend unreasonable results), aff'd, 560 N.W.2d 681 (Minn. 1997). Therefore, the trial court did not err in requiring the Jensens and Spooners to show the alleged harassers acted with specific intent.
The Jensens and Spooners also argue the trial court's factual finding of no harassment is clearly erroneous. However, the record demonstrates the trial court: (1) received evidence from all parties on each allegation of harassment; (2) found the evidence submitted by the Jensens and Spooners was either too vague or merely proved the alleged harassers acted with an intent to inconvenience the Jensens and Spooners; (3) found the testimony of Patricia Jensen unreliable; (4) noted the Jensens refused to produce a videotape that allegedly supported their testimony regarding a vandalism claim; and (5) finally concluded that it could not make a finding of harassment based on the evidence before it. Under these circumstances, we cannot say the trial court's factual findings were clearly erroneous. See Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (stating due regard shall be given to trial court's opportunity to judge witness credibility).
Schacher argues he is entitled to $1,000 in costs and attorney fees under Minn. Stat. § 549.21 (1996). Minn. Stat. § 549.21, subd. 2, provides that a court may award a party fees and costs upon a finding that an opposing party or counsel had
acted in bad faith; asserted a claim or defense that is frivolous and that is costly to the other party; asserted an unfounded position solely to delay the ordinary course of the proceedings or to harass; or committed a fraud upon the court.
Given the behavior of all the parties and a careful review of the record, we decline to award fees on appeal.