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The Act of Purposefully Sending a Video of a Mock Suicide to a Spouse Constituted Conduct that Would Disturb the Peace of the Other Party Under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act

Marla Gwen Hogue (“Plaintiff”) sought a restraining order under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (“DVPA”) in the Orange County Superior Court against her estranged husband, Jerry Dean Hogue (“Defendant”). In her request for a restraining order, Plaintiff sought protection on behalf of herself, her mother, and her two dogs. She claimed that she had experienced a series of instances of abuse from her husband. The most recent incident of abuse occurred in December, 2015, when Defendant left Plaintiff with a bump on her forehead and two black eyes. About ten days after the incident, she was able to move back to Orange County, where she and Defendant had previously lived. Plaintiff also noted other instances of abuse, including an incident that left her with bruised ribs, an incident where Defendant almost choked her into unconsciousness, and an incident where Defendant threatened to kill them both. Plaintiff also asserted that she had a 20 year history of being “pushed, kicked, punched, strangled, and raped.” After Plaintiff finally left Defendant, Defendant pretended to shoot himself in the mouth with his shotgun during a video message on social media.

Defendant made a special appearance through his divorce lawyer to move to quash Plaintiff’s action for a lack of personal jurisdiction. Defendant’s Orange County divorce attorney asserted that none of the alleged activities took place in California. Defendant claimed that he lived in Georgia and had not had any contacts with California for two years. Furthermore, Defendant was served in Georgia. Based on this information, the divorce court granted Defendant’s Orange County divorce lawyer’s motion to quash. On appeal, Plaintiff’s Orange County divorce attorney asserted that there was personal jurisdiction, as the parties had been life-long residents of Orange County, California before their marriage in 1996, and continued to reside in Orange County until their move to Georgia toward the beginning of 2015.

A defendant’s conduct may come within the “special regulation” basis for specific jurisdiction of the Orange County Superior Court if the controversy at issue arises out of sufficient purposeful contacts with California. Plaintiff’s Orange County divorce lawyer invokes a species of specific jurisdiction in which a defendant acting elsewhere causes effects in California of a nature that are “exceptional” and “subject to” “special regulation” in the state. Although Plaintiff did not invoke this particular theory in the family law court, the Court of Appeal in Orange County found that it was appropriate to consider the issue on appeal.

The Court of Appeal found that Defendant’s acts, including the act of purposefully sending a video of a mock suicide to Plaintiff in Orange County, particularly in the context of the alleged domestic violence that took place in Georgia, was indisputably conduct that would disturb Plaintiff’s peace of mind within the meaning of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, and thus served as the basis for granting the restraining order. As a result, this was sufficient for the family law court to vest personal jurisdiction over Defendant to enjoin any further conduct. Therefore, the Court of Appeal vacated the order granting Defendant’s Orange County divorce lawyer’s motion to quash and remanded the case back to the Superior Court for further proceedings.

Hogue v. Hogue (2017) 16 Cal. App. 5th 833