Can’t we all just get along?
Christine Young, you like walking your dogs in the park.
Vicky Tisdial, your gig is feeding the squirrels.
Whatever other differences you may have, did it really have to end like this, with clouds of mace, slashing dog leashes and civil protection orders?
Oh no you didn’t!
Christine and Vicky
These names don’t sound like the ingredients for a vicious territorial squabble.
But life deals strange hands.
Vicky lives in an apartment a stone’s throw from Meadowlark Park in Carmel, Indiana.
One of Vicky’s little pleasures in life is feeding the park’s squirrels, ducks and other critters. She enjoys scattering white bread along the park’s paths for her wildlife pals. Harmless stuff, or so it would seem.
Christine lives on the opposite side of the park and uses the normally peaceful open space to walk her dogs.
Christine objected to the fact that she often finds a section of path covered with Vicky’s white bread.
Now, I sorta feel Christine’s pain. My dog Hedy scarfs up anything from the ground that looks even slightly edible. It can be pretty disgusting, both at the time and later in the day. I’ll skip the details.
As a veteran dog walker, I’ve become used to spotting and avoiding those hazards, so it’s hard to understand why Vicky’s white bread just stuck in Christine’s craw.
But it evidently ate at her. And Christine being Christine just couldn’t view the bread scattered in Meadowlark Park as one of life’s little annoyances that you just live with.
Nope, in February 2009, while walking her dogs in the park, Christine saw Vicky and noticed “there was bread all over the path.” So Christine complained to Vicky to “at least leave us some room.”
That was Mistake Number One.
Apparently Vicky has a short fuse and she didn’t appreciate Christine’s request, not at all.
In response, Vicky allegedly pulled out a can of mace and ran toward Christine, threatening to spray her.
As Christine and her dogs beat a hasty retreat, Vicky screeched, “You better run!”
That ended the first confrontation between Vicky and Christine, but a full-blown battle was not far off.
On May 20, 2009, Christine was walking her dogs in the park when she saw there was bread all over the path again.
Christine spotted Vicky about a football field away and, figuring that was a safe distance, yelled at Vicky to stop throwing bread on the pathways.
Here we have Mistake Number Two.
You see, not only does Vicky have a short fuse, but she also apparently has Bo Jackson-like speed.
Pulling out her trusty can of mace, Vicky was quickly upon Christine, spraying away.
Christine got her licks in, too, swatting away at Vicky with a dog leash, but Christine soon realized she was overmatched and needed reinforcements.
Pulling out her cell phone, Christine called the police.
The cavalry arrived as it always does – just in the nick of time.
Before any serious damage had been done, police separated the two women and the Battle of Meadowlark Park was over.
Well, not really. Christine shifted the fight to a venue all lawyers love – the courts.
Christine figured she needed a civil protection order slapped on Vicky if she was ever going to be able to enjoy Meadowlark Park again.
A sympathetic state judge granted Christine relief under the Indiana Civil Protection Order Act.
Judge Gail Bardach of the Hamilton Superior Court ordered Vicky to stay out of Meadowlark Park, and also prohibited her from stalking, calling, harassing, annoying, telephoning or otherwise communicating with Christine.
Vicky was heart-broken over the fact that she was banned from her beloved Meadowlark Park. And, given her feistiness, you can also imagine that Vicky just couldn’t stomach Christine being one up on her.
No, Vicky wouldn’t stand for it and she appealed the protection order against her pro se.
Now, proceeding without a lawyer you might conclude that Vicky didn’t stand much of a chance.
But Vicky had one big factor in her favor: Christine’s case just didn’t fit neatly under the Indiana Civil Protection Order Act.
You see, the statute is designed to protect the victims of domestic violence and stalking.
Last week, the Indiana Court of Appeals perceived this problem right off the bat and struck down Christine’s civil protection order.
The court explained that the statute “authorizes issuance of an order for protection only where a petitioner shows violence by a family or household member, stalking, or a sex offense has occurred. [Christine's] petition for an order for protection alleged she was a victim of stalking, and the trial court’s original ex parte order, reaffirmed following a hearing, so found. However, our review of the record shows there is no evidence [Vicky] committed stalking against [Christine], nor were the parties family or household members.”
While Christine had satisfied Judge Baird that she was the victim of stalking, that argument didn’t fly in the court of appeals.
The court observed that “stalking requires some evidence that the actor is the one looking for the victim. Here, by contrast, there is no evidence [Vicky] came looking for [Christine]. To the contrary, their encounters in the Park resulted from the fact both women walked in the Park on a daily or near-daily basis, and [Christine] verbally initiated each encounter.” (Tisdial v. Young)
Christine might not be totally out in the cold because the court suggested that she might be entitled to some other form of injunctive relief.
But with all due respect to the fine judges on the Indiana Court of Appeals, this might be one of those rare cases where it’s best for the court to hammer that square peg into the round hole.
Okay, Christine’s case doesn’t fit under the civil protection statute.
But in the interest of peace, it’s probably not a good idea to embolden Vicky by giving her a win in the courts by overturning Christine’s protective order. The last thing you want is Vicky upping the ante and strapping a Taser on her hip to complement her can of mace.
And the guess in this corner is that Christine isn’t the type who’s going to take this defeat lying down. So we can only hope and pray that there isn’t a resumption of hostilities at Meadowlark Park.
- Pat Murphy