The Plain Meaning of the Phrase “Disturbing the Peace of the Other Party” May be Understood to Mean “Conduct that Destroys the Mental or Emotional Calm of the Other Party”

In this Orange County case, Gisela Burquet (“Respondent”) and Randy Brumbaugh (“Appellant”) had an intimate relationship, which Respondent terminated in April 2012. After their relationship ended, Appellant continued to contact Respondent. Gisela consistently asked Randy to stop contacting her. Despite her requests that he cease contacting her, he continued asking Gisela to renew their relationship. His communications were inappropriate and contained sexual innuendos. Each time she denied his advances, Randy got angry. On two prior occasions during their relationship, Randy got angry and got physical with Gisela. The last time Randy asked Gisela not to contact her was on October 31, 2012. After this date, Randy continued to contact Gisela via text and e-mail.

On February 18, 2013, Randy appeared outside Gisela’s Orange County residence unannounced and uninvited. Randy knocked on Gisela’s door, and Gisela opened it, but did not invite Randy inside. After a short conversation, Gisela asked Randy to leave. He got angry and proceeded shouting outside of her residence. Gisela informed him that she was scared and that she was going to call the police if he did not leave. Randy continued pacing outside Gisela’s porch for about ten minutes. After calling the Gisela to tell her not to be scared, Randy left Gisela’s Orange County residence before the police arrived.

On February 20, 2013, Gisela’s Orange County family law attorney submitted to the Superior Court an application for a Domestic Violence Prevention Act ex parte restraining order. On March 4, 2013, Randy’s Orange County family law lawyer filed his response to the request. The hearing on Gisela’s family law attorney’s request for a further injunction was called on March 20, 2013. Based on the aforementioned evidence, the family law court granted Gisela’s request for a restraining order, to be effective until March 20, 2015. On April 8, 2013, Randy filed a notice of appeal with the Court of Appeal, based on the contention that the family law court had abused its discretion in issuing the restraining order, as there was no evidence presented of past acts of “abuse.”

California Family Code section 6203 provides: “for purposes of this act [Domestic Violence Prevention Act], ‘abuse’ means…to engage in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to Section 6320.” California Family Code section 6320(a) provides: “the court may issue an…order enjoining a party from… disturbing the peace of the other party.” On appeal, Randy’s family law attorney contended that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that there was a disturbance of “the peace of the other party.” Randy’s Orange County family law lawyer asked the Court of Appeal to follow the definition of “disturbing the peace” set forth in Penal Code Section 415, which defines the phrase, for criminal purposes, as the “disruption of public order by acts that are themselves violent or that tend to incite…violence.” In addition, Randy asked the Court to reject the holding in In re Marriage of Nadkarni, which held that, “for purposes of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, ‘abuse’ means…to engage in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to Section 6320.”

The Court of Appeal in Orange County found that Randy’s behavior “disturbed the peace of the other party,” constituting an act of “abuse” under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. The Court of Appeal reasoned that under Section 6320, “the requisite abuse need not be actual…physical injury or assault.” Furthermore, the Court of Appeal determined that, although the Domestic Violence Prevention Act does not define the phrase “disturbing the peace of the other party,” the plain meaning of the phrase may be properly understood as “conduct that destroys the mental or emotional calm of the other party.” This interpretation comports with the legislative history of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, and thus constitutes “abuse” for purposes of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. Consistent with the Court’s statutory interpretation of “disturbing the peace of the other party” in In re Marriage of Nadkarni, the Court of Appeal affirmed the family law court’s decision, concluding that there was substantial evidence to support a finding that Randy disturbed the “peace” of Gisela, an act of “abuse” under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act.

Burquet v. Brumbaugh (2014) 223 Cal. App. 4th 1140