MN Supreme Court: Orders for protection can be based on years-old domestic abuse allegations

Overturning a Court of Appeals ruling, the Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday added more muscle to the state’s Domestic Abuse Act by ruling that an order for protection can be issued on the basis of past allegations of domestic abuse.

The court ruled in the case of Tracy Thompson, who had sought an order for protection in September 2015 against her ex-husband, John Schrimsher, based largely on allegations of domestic abuse several years earlier, including being kicked, choked, knocked over, and slapped, some of which occurred while she was pregnant. Schrimsher denied the allegations.

While the district court issued the protective order, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the lower court, ruling that “a finding of past domestic abuse alone is insufficient to support the issuance of an OFP without a showing of a present intent to cause or inflict fear of imminent physical harm.”

The state’s Supreme Court ruled that’s wrong.

Writing for the majority of the court, Justice David Lillehaug noted the district court found that the past incidents of domestic abuse continued to “terrorize” the woman.

Here, the district court did not abuse its discretion by granting an OFP. Thompson testified to a general pattern of abuse occurring from 2010 to 2012. Thompson further testified to multiple specific incidents of kicking, choking, and slapping, including an occasion during which Schrimsher dragged her down a hallway, threw her onto a bed, and attempted to handcuff her. This testimony led the district court to find that Schrimsher “mentally, physically, and sexually abused” Thompson. As the court of appeals noted, “the district court found credible the testimony that there existed a past history of domestic abuse.”

Lillehaug rejected Schrimsher’s argument that allowing an order for protection based on past allegations would create an “absurd result” because a single incident of domestic abuse from years earlier could result in the protective order.

“Schrimsher far overstates this risk,” Lillehaug wrote. “Under the
Act, OFPs are never granted automatically. Instead, once a petitioner has ‘allege[d] the existence of domestic abuse,’ the district court ‘shall order a hearing.’ After this hearing, ‘the court may provide relief.’”

  • Robert Moffitt

    I side with the Supremes on this one. When it comes to domestic abuse, the past is too often prologue.

    • Veronica

      Yeah…I’d like to see stats on how often abusers just do it one time, though given how hard it can be for abusers to be taken seriously by police officers, any information out there is not going to be accurate.

  • Jeff

    I’m curious if Judge Stras was in the majority as well? I didn’t see it in the links.

  • Roland Riemers

    The problem with abuse charges is that is has often become just another court game where each side tries to set the other side up. Often if it is a matter or he said/she said. But police officers are under pressure to arrest the man. In ND arresting officers also have to take into consideration the “bulk” of the parties. But there are no guidelines on what this means? Is the larger party (usually male) to be considered the more dangerous and likely primary aggressor, or should the officer note that a larger party is less likely to show physical injuries by the more aggressive smaller (ie. woman) party? It would also help if so many other benefits were not attached to these domestic abuse charges. The law also fails to recognize that some physical conflict can be normal human conduct. (Ever notice that brothers and sisters from time to time have physical conflicts in the home?) Of course, domestic abuse is “suppose” to be a pattern of behavior, but instead just a one time incident can easily trigger a protection order. That incident can be as little as “he had this evil look in his eyes.” In one case that went to the ND Supremes, a woman had sex with a boyfriend in front of her child, and then went home and taunted the husband with this information. He could finally take it no more and struck her, which of course is what she wanted. A perfectly normal human reaction by about any man. But the Supremes upheld the order and stated it didn’t matter that the violence occurred as a result of “button pushing”. The solution is to eliminate the crime of domestic abuse. If someone assaults another, they are charged and punished for assault. It should not matter if the relationship is spouse or stranger. Whatever they are, they are not going to be able to repeat the crime if they are setting in jail.

  • David Kedrowski

    This was an absolutely twisted opinion beneath the dignity of the MN Supreme Court. On the matter of the temporal requirement, I believe the court is absolutely correct in its attack on Kass, Bjergum, etc. Such issues are for the legislature to fix, not the court. (sadly, they will never do so as they would find themselves under attack by the feminists and advocacy groups who ironically use bullying and intimidation as their modus operandi)

    However, the Supreme Court then does exactly what it said the Appellate could not do – expand the meaning of Statute 518B.01. Nowhere does the Statute allow the court to consider behavior that is not domestic abuse.

    Yet, that is exactly what the court explicitly allows when it stated, “Speaking from the bench, the court further found that Schrimsher “continues, through means that he is very aware of . . . to control and disrupt [Thompson’s] life.”” If the legislature wished the court to include non-domestic violence behavior it would have explicitly stated. “(“[C]ourts cannot supply that which the legislature purposely omits or inadvertently overlooks.” – to borrow for the Supreme Court’s own words in the ruling 

    Further, the ofp for the child has no evidentiary support whatsoever. Yet the court had no problems with this.

    On a side note, to see how corrupt and the court has become in these matters, the district court granted the 2015 ex parte order even though Schrimsher lived in a different state and when there were clearly no “immediate and present danger of domestic abuse” as required 518B.01 subd. 7(a). And the mother filed this ofp after he brought legal action against her. This will come as no shock to the countless men slaughtered in the court system with false ofp petitions when they start engaging in custody disputes over their children.

    There are many “as-applied” constitutional attacks one could make against 518B.01.I hope someone attacks it soon.

    In regard to domestic abuse, the MN Court System has ceased being the judicial branch and it is now simply an advocacy group masked as the law. This diminishes the court. As John Paul Stevens stated in his dissent in Bush v. Gore “[T] he identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.“

    • Tracy Thompson

      Actually, he filed for 100% custody only after I applied for an OFP- literally several hours after he was served the paperwork. I could go through and point out all the nonsense in your comment but I waste so incredibly much of my energy dealing with this unending abuse there is no need for more wasted on a stranger who feels the need to insert himself into a situation they know very very little about. You have no idea the horrors this man has put my child and myself through and is continuing to put us through. This Supreme Court ruling has not stopped the abuse of my child, myself, or of the legal system. -You seem to have no concept of what domestic abuse or child abuse is, much less having any capacity for empathy at all. It is horrific enough to have to deal with the ceaseless, horrific abuse and knowing that I cannot protect my child from it; knowing that strangers feel the need to dismiss the horrors we have lived through and try to compound the horror is senseless. All of this is senseless. At any moment he could just STOP. Could just STOP. But he NEVER will, and you, sir, have no idea what you are talking about. All of this is so utterly sick it defies comprehension.

      • David Kedrowski

        I am inserted into this case simply by being a man living in MN who is subject to the domestic abuse laws and to the court’s interpretation of them. Simply, the court’s decision affects me.

        I have also been falsely accused of domestic abuse and I have seen first-hand the unconstitutional way the court treats the accused. I am very smart and I defeated the false accusations (in part by citing the caselaw contained in the Supreme Court decision). However, an average man without knowledge of the law has zero chance beating false allegations as he will never get a fair hearing.

        From the facts contained in the case, as I have no others to go by, it appears that you are the one who has been abusing the system. For example, you filed 2 ex parte ofps. The first one was dismissed because you didn’t show up for court. I find it disturbing that someone would file an ofp and then refuse to fulfill their duty and show up for court. In the second, there appears to be zero grounds for an ex parte order as there were no allegations (relying on the appellate opinions) that there was an imminent threat. I am disturbed that the court took no issue with such behavior. And I even more disturbed that the court allowed you to raise the same charges years later that you failed to follow through on the first time around.

        Finally, I double checked and the Supreme Court Decision states that he brought legal action and then you filed the ofp. He has a constitutional right to bring the legal action he deems necessary to protect his childen.