may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Touni El Bazi, petitioner,
Filed November 24, 1998
Ramsey County District Court
File No. C198100140
Robert G. Malone, 780 Capital Centre, 386 North Wabasha Street, Suite 1000, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)
Daniel M. Fiskum, Jensen, Stockman & Fiskum, 1301 East 79th Street, Suite 108, Bloomington, MN 55425 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Short, Judge.
On March 5, 1998, Tanika Nolan allegedly called Touni El Bazi a "jerk" during a heated conversation about suspected illegal activities taking place at El Bazi's place of business. Based on this incident, El Bazi applied for a harassment restraining order (HRO) against Nolan. On appeal from the trial court's issuance of the HRO, Nolan argues the trial court abused its discretion by improperly granting the order. El Bazi declined to file any argument by formal or informal brief. We reverse.
A trial court's issuance of an HRO is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. See Miller v. Foley, 317 N.W.2d 710, 712 (Minn. 1982) (holding temporary injunctions will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion); see also Mechtel v. Mechtel, 528 N.W.2d 916, 920 (Minn. App. 1995) (noting relief granted in domestic abuse proceedings was within trial court's discretion); Anderson v. Lake, 536 N.W.2d 909, 911 (Minn. App. 1995) (holding domestic abuse case law applied to harassment restraining orders). We will not set aside a trial court's findings unless clearly erroneous, but we will review de novo questions of statutory construction. See 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).
Nolan argues the trial court abused its discretion in relying on a single, speculative finding to issue the HRO. See Minn. Stat. § 609.748, subd. 5(a)(3) (1996) (stating requirements for issuance of harassment restraining order). We agree. Although a trial court may grant an HRO if it finds reasonable grounds to believe an individual has engaged in harassment, this harassment must amount to more than a single word or gesture. Id.; Minn. Stat. § 609.748, subd. 1(a)(1) (Supp. 1997) (defining "harassment" as "repeated, intrusive, or unwanted acts, words, or gestures") (emphasis added); see also Davidson v. Webb, 535 N.W.2d 822, 824 (Minn. App. 1995) (holding more than one word is necessary to substantiate HRO). Moreover, the trial court must base its findings in support of an HRO on testimony and documents introduced into evidence. See Anderson, 536 N.W.2d at 911-12 (granting new hearing because trial court based decision on evidence not properly introduced into evidence).
The trial court based the HRO on the sole finding that Nolan called El Bazi a "jerk" on March 5, 1998. Not only is the finding that Nolan used this word on March 5, 1998 unsupported by the record but, more importantly, as a single word it fails to constitute harassment under Minn. Stat. § 609.748, subd. 1(a)(1). See Davidson, 535 N.W.2d at 824 (holding one threatening incident constituted harassment but not one word, act, or gesture). Under these circumstances, we conclude the trial court abused its discretion in granting the HRO.