I recently represented a 40-year old man (who I will refer to as “Good Roommate” or “GR”) whose “Bad Roommate” or “BR,” was creating a destructive environment that was adversely affecting my client. BR had no job, took 17 Vicodin each morning and only left the condo, which my client’s mother owned, to try to score more Vicodin. In addition to BR’s self-medication and paranoia, there were also incidents of petty theft from GR and scattered incidents of destruction of the condo.
As tension was escalating, BR then enlisted the help of his own mother, who is married to a very prominent attorney, and this woman began sending nasty, accusatory emails to my GR. GR responded to the provocation by sending a colorful set of emails punctuated with expletives, pointing out BR’s lies while also making a few mild threats. After all, people can only take so much, which the law knows only too well. This is why restraining order court is your only real source of help if your roommate paces your condo hardwood floors all night outside your bedroom, makes violent threats such as planning to poison you, and makes normal life impossible.
In response to the provocations, I filed a civil harassment temporary restraining order (TRO) on behalf of GR, which he received immediately, even without giving notice, due to his claim that impending violence would occur after he served BR. In response, BR decided to go for one himself alleging email harassment from GR, among other things, while using the magic words: “I was in fear of my life.”
Both roommates then appeared for a hearing where the judge pronounced that they were both served and ordered a continuance of the TRO hearing that each sought. The judge then ordered each to stay 5 yards away from one other while in the condo, and 100 yards away from each other when outside the condo. The restraining order also required both to turn in all guns and refrain from all communication, including social media, email, forwarding email, phone, and text, etc.
With the hardship this imposed on GR, who has to go to work every day, he decided to move out of their shared condo to stay in motels and then with a friend for two months. Meanwhile, BR elected to stay in the condo wreaking additional havoc right up until the weekend before the continued TRO hearing – and then, BR moved out of the condo the Saturday before the court date, failing to appear in court. As GR’s attorney, I was then ordered by the judge to prove up my client’s restraining order case and provide oral testimony to defeat BR’s case.
In the end, GR was awarded attorney’s fees of $1,500 and a 5-year restraining order against BR. The only problem was how to serve BR, since no one knew where he had moved. After much discussion, we realized that BR’s ex-wife, who despised him, would know his new address since they were still sharing custody of two small children.
After contacting BR’s divorce attorneys and obtaining the ex-wife’s contact information, I was then able to negotiate BR’s physical address for a trade-off of the critical trial transcript of the alleged acts BR had committed against my client. BR was then served with the 5-year restraining order which included the obligation to pay $1,500 in court fees to GR and justice was served.
Having temporary restraining orders available as a stop gap measure allows ordinary people to be free of domestic and/or civil harassment and fear. When it is your life on the line, being embroiled in civil or domestic harassment can seem very much like an ISIS attack on your personal household.