STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
LeAnna Hamlin, et al., petitioners,
Filed June 29, 1999
Ramsey County District Court
File No. C7-98-100143
Timothy Barrett, 325 - 60th Street, Mahtomedi, MN 55155 (pro se appellant)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Davies, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.
Appellant challenges the issuance of a restraining order against him, arguing that the district court's findings of fact are clearly erroneous and that it erred by concluding that his conduct constitutes harassment. We affirm.
Respondent testified that the altercation occurred after she explained to appellant that he needed to come up with a method for the office to keep track of his work hours. Later, while in respondent's office, they began to argue. Appellant called the police who, after responding to the call, explained that the dispute was a civil matter and that there was not much that they could do. After the police had been there "several times," respondent's husband, David Thomas, and respondent's assistant, Denise Barton, told appellant the office was closed and that he needed to leave. He refused. When respondent attempted to leave the office with a computer, appellant charged down the hall at her and tried to stop her. Appellant called the police again. Both appellant and respondent were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
Denise Barton, respondent's assistant, testified that she heard appellant arguing in respondent's office and then heard the door slam twice. She also heard respondent tell appellant to leave the office, but he replied that he was not leaving. The only threatening thing she saw appellant do to respondent was when he ran at her from his office across the hall.
In his defense, appellant testified that respondent harassed him. Appellant called no other witnesses.
At the close of the hearing, the district court made the following findings: (1) respondent was the lawful party on the premises; (2) appellant was a contract employee who had the obligation to leave when told to do so; and (3) appellant failed to do that. The district court found that conduct, along with its finding that appellant "rushed [respondent] down the hallway, * * * constitutes conduct that is within the purview of the [harassment] statute." In the harassment restraining order, the district court explained that appellant had engaged in harassment by committing acts constituting threats "by rushing [respondent] in an aggressive manner raising [due] apprehension in [respondent]" and because appellant "refused to leave when asked to by the lawful employer to do so." The district court ruled that appellant had engaged in harassing conduct within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 609.748, subd. 1(a)(1) (1996), and issued a restraining order against appellant.
Appellant argues that the findings of fact were clearly erroneous and that the district court erred in ruling that appellant had engaged in conduct constituting "harassment" under Minn. Stat. § 609.748.
Minn. Stat. § 609.748, subd. 1(a)(1) (1996), defines "harassment" as including
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[.]
Findings of fact, whether based on oral or documentary evidence, shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses. The findings of a referee, to the extent adopted by the court, shall be considered as the findings of the court.
Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.
The record supports the findings of the court, and, therefore, they are not clearly erroneous.
Next, appellant argues that the findings were not supported by evidence that he intended to harass respondent. Actions constituting harassment, however, may alone be reasonable grounds for the district court to believe that appellant intended to adversely affect the safety, security, or privacy of the victim. See Davidson v. Webb, 535 N.W.2d 822, 825 (Minn. App. 1995) (concluding that actions constituting harassment were alone reasonable grounds to believe that defendant intended to adversely affect safety, security, or privacy of victim).
"The construction of a statute is a question of law and thus fully reviewable by an appellate court." Id. at 824 (citing Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985)).
If the district court finds that "`there are reasonable grounds to believe that the [person] has engaged in harassment,'" then it may issue a restraining order against that person. Id. (quoting Minn. Stat. § 609.748, subd. 5 (1994)). There is no requirement that the district court find an ongoing pattern of conduct likely to reoccur before it can issue a restraining order. Id. Conduct that consists of "more than one act, word, or gesture * * * in a single incident" may constitute harassment under the statute. Id. at 825.
Here, the district found that appellant (1) refused to leave the premises when asked to do so; and (2) rushed respondent in an aggressive manner, raising apprehension in respondent. This conduct consisted of more than one act, word, or gesture. Therefore, the district court did not err in concluding that the conduct amounted to harassment, even without a finding that the conduct was likely to reoccur in the future.
Although we believe that the particular conduct that the district court relied on barely crosses the threshold required to find harassment, we cannot say that the district court clearly erred in finding it to constitute harassment.