UCI Law Domestic Violence Clinic Wins Appellate Victory


DVC group
Left to right: UCI Law Prof. Jane Stoever; Shuray Ghorishi, Senior Attorney, Family Violence Appellate Project; Julia Taing, 2L and DVC Law Intern; and Erika Bertelsen, 3L and DVC Law Intern.

After a UCI Law Domestic Violence (DV) Clinic client was wrongly denied a restraining order after trial, the DV Clinic was concerned about the court’s erroneous ruling and our client’s need for protection from abuse, and co-counseled an appeal with the Family Violence Appellate Project. The appellate court in N.T. v. H.T. (G055885) ruled in our client’s favor and made important determinations about the law, which will positively impact abuse survivors in California. The appellate court’s opinion is published here.

After our client filed for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) against her husband, the court awarded a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and set a hearing to determine if a permanent DVRO should issue. The survivor and her husband eventually stipulated to the entry of a longer-term TRO. Her husband, however, violated the TRO multiple times, including repeatedly using visitation exchanges to try to coerce our client into returning to the relationship, locating and showing up at her confidential address, as witnessed and photographed by our client’s friend, and giving her a spiritually abusive letter. Based on these violations, our client filed a new request for a DVRO citing violations of the TRO as “acts of abuse” and therefore a basis for a DVRO. Her husband did not deny any of the violations and admitted to most of them; however, the trial court denied the request for a DVRO, concluding that violating a TRO is not in and of itself abuse and that the violations were only “technical.”

The California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Division Three issued a strong opinion reversing the denial of the DVRO. First, it held the trial court erred in ruling that a violation of a TRO was not itself an act of abuse because the Domestic Violence Prevention Act defines abuse as “engag[ing] in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to Section 6320,” and the record was replete with examples of the husband’s behaviors that had been enjoined. Second, it held the trial court erred in ruling the alleged conduct would not independently constitute abuse.

“We are inspired by our client’s courage and persistence in seeking court protection and by our students’ incredible advocacy from the trial court through the appeal,” said Jane K. Stoever, Clinical Professor of Law and Director, UCI Law Domestic Violence Clinic. “This decision will have long-lasting impact for domestic abuse survivors in California.”

Our alums, Star Leal ‘18 and Mariah Lindsay ’18, handled the DVRO hearing and drafted significant parts of the brief. Students Julia Taing, 2L, and Erika Bertelsen, 3L, also worked on the case. Patricia Cyr of the UCI Law Domestic Violence Clinic, Craig Stewart of Jones Day, and Shuray Ghorishi of the Family Violence Appellate Project also co-counseled the appeal.