Monday, September 4, 2023

Stalking Order Against Former Client Affirmed

The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the grant of an order against stalking brought by an attorney against a former client

In October 2022, plaintiff filed a complaint for an order against stalking against defendant. Plaintiff, who is an attorney, alleged that she represented defendant from July 2021 to September 2022 in a criminal proceeding for domestic assault. Plaintiff alleged that defendant had been making angry and abusive phone calls to her office, causing plaintiff, her law partner, and her support staff to fear for their safety. Defendant also sent plaintiff a letter in which he complained about a lost billfold, accused plaintiff of covering up for whoever did it, and demanded that she put $5000 on his account. The letter concluded, “I have your home address,” and listed plaintiff’s Essex County address. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that plaintiff had mischaracterized his letter and made false statements in her affidavit. He appeared to claim that his actions were justified because she had lost his wallet. The court held a final hearing on October 19, 2022. Plaintiff attended, but defendant did not. The court issued a one-year order against stalking that prohibited defendant from contacting plaintiff and ordered him to stay 300 feet away from plaintiff and her home and office.

On appeal, defendant argues that plaintiff violated the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct by losing his wallet as well as a large sum of cash that she had obtained from police on his behalf for safekeeping. He asserts that only after calling plaintiff’s office multiple times did she compensate him by depositing funds into his prison account. He claims that he was unable to attend the final hearing because his case manager in the prison did not set up a connection for him. He argues that the court never ruled on his motion to dismiss. He claims that plaintiff violated attorney-client privilege and lied on her affidavit in support of the complaint, that his actions did not constitute stalking, and that she only filed the complaint because he had sued her to recover damages for his lost wallet. Finally, he appears to argue that the Essex Unit of the superior court lacked jurisdiction over plaintiff’s complaint because defendant mailed the letter to plaintiff’s office in Lyndonville, which is in Caledonia County.

On appeal

We are unable to review defendant’s claims that the evidence did not support the trial court’s determination that he stalked plaintiff, that his actions were justified by plaintiff’s conduct, or that plaintiff’s statements were not credible, because defendant did not order a transcript of the final hearing below.

(Mike Frisch)

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