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Court lost competency to issue harassment injunction

Tiffany Hill v. D.C., 2014 WI App 99; case activity

Because the plain language of § 813.125(3)(c) allows only one extension of a temporary restraining order, the circuit court lost competency to proceed when it extended the TRO twice.

Under the two-part procedure for harassment injunctions, a party first seeks an ex parte TRO, and then the court holds a final hearing on the issuance of an injunction, § 813.125(2m). The TRO is in effect till the final hearing, which must be held within 14 days, except that time limit may be extended upon the written consent of the parties or “once for 14 days upon a finding that the respondent has not been served with a copy of the temporary restraining order although the petitioner has exercised due diligence,” § 813.125(3)(c).

Hill obtained a TRO against D.C., but at the scheduled injunction hearing D.C. had not been served with the TRO. The court adjourned the matter for a week. When D.C. still had not been served by the time of the second hearing the court granted another adjournment, for three more days. (¶¶2-5). The statute doesn’t permit a second adjournment:

¶8        …. The statute explicitly says that a temporary restraining order can be extended “once for 14 days upon a finding that the respondent has not been served with a copy of the temporary restraining order.” … “‘It is an elementary rule of construction that effect must be given, if possible, to every word, clause, and sentence of a statute.’” State v. Quintana, 2008 WI 33, ¶60, 308 Wis. 2d 615, 748 N.W.2d 447 (citations omitted). As such, we cannot ignore the legislature’s directive that courts only be permitted to extend a temporary restraining order once. It is not enough that the circuit court finally held the injunction hearing within the fourteen-day extension period permitted by the statute. … To permit the circuit court to extend the temporary restraining order twice would be to ignore the statute’s plain words.

Because the second adjournment was not permitted the circuit court lost competency to proceed, State v. Smith, 2005 WI 104, 18, 283 Wis. 2d 57, 699 N.W.2d 508 (“a court may lose its ‘competency’ to adjudicate a particular case if it fails to comply with a variety of statutory procedures, including certain time limitations”). (¶9).

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