Bubble by Don McCrady
Update (March 2, 2018): A man cannot seem to keep his distance from an ex-spouse (and the mother of his daughter), notwithstanding a court’s “no contact” orders.
The district court, undoubtedly aware of the serious threat to the ex-wife by the man’s inability to stay away, noting his “alarming behavior,” extended the “no contact order,” ordering him to stay a mile away from the ex-spouse’s home (rather than 100 feet) for 50 years (rather than 2 years). The ex-husband appealed the temporal and geographic expansion of the court’s order.
The Court of Appeals, in reviewing this decision, referred repeatedly to a “two-mile bubble” (i.e., the diameter of a circle with a one-mile radius).
The statute that the trial court was to follow allows the district court to exclude someone “from a reasonable area surrounding the dwelling or residence.” Who decides what “reasonable” is, the trial court or the court of appeals?
The Court of Appeals, over a dissent from Judge Renee L. Worke, decided that “this extraordinary expansion” was unreasonable. The court seems to have been particularly bothered by the expansion because the ex-wife lives near the center of Minneapolis and, therefore, the order could pose significant transit challenges for the ex-husband. Further, the order would “follow” the ex-wife so, if she moved, she could displace the man from a two-mile diameter circle from wherever she moved to.
We reverse only the portion of the district court’s order that extends the 100-foot radius of exclusion surrounding [the ex-wife’s] home to one mile. We remand with instructions for the district court to reduce the size of the restriction and to define the zone of exclusion around [the ex-wife’s] residence in a manner that both tracks the reasons supporting the extension and that does not unreasonably interfere with [the ex-husband’s] mobility.
We note that the trial judge and the dissenting judge at the court of appeals are women. This could be random coincidence or this could reflect that judges’ gender might correlate between how they “strike a rational balance between the competing interests at stake: the protected person’s safety and the restricted person’s liberty” in cases like this one?
Would it be surprising if the balancing of those interests (safety vs. liberty) might change if one tends to identify more with the person seeking safety than the person seeking liberty, or vice-versa? And, if so, is this not a compelling argument for gender balance in our courts and for decision-makers and policy-makers generally?