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Tyree v. Evans

April 22, 1999

BERNARD TYREE, APPELLANT,
v.
JUANITA EVANS, APPELLEE



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwelb, Associate Judge

Notice: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the Atlantic and Maryland Reporters. Users are requested to notify the Clerk of the Court of any formal errors so that corrections may be made before the bound volumes go to press.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (Hon. Zoe Bush, Trial Judge)

Submitted January 19, 199

Before Schwelb and Reid, Associate Judges, and Pryor, Senior Judge.

In this case of alleged domestic violence involving an unmarried couple, the trial Judge issued a one-year civil protection order (CPO) against the defendant, Bernard Tyree, without permitting Tyree's attorney to cross-examine the complainant, Juanita Evans. Observing that unlike Mr. Tyree, Ms. Evans was not represented by counsel, the Judge stated that Tyree "has no right to confront or cross-examine her. This is a civil proceeding."*fn1

On appeal, Tyree contends that this total prohibition against any cross-examination of Ms. Evans was error. We conclude that although the Judge was entitled to place reasonable limits on cross-examination, she erred at the trial stage by precluding cross-examination altogether. Accordingly, we reverse.

I.

THE TRIAL COURT PROCEEDINGS

On June 5, 1997, Ms. Evans filed a pro se petition and affidavit in which she requested a civil protection order against Mr. Tyree. Ms. Evans also asked that Tyree be required to vacate the apartment that the two of them shared.*fn2

In her pleading, Ms. Evans checked a box indicating that she and Tyree had a "romantic/dating relationship." Ms. Evans alleged that on June 4, 1997, Tyree had punched her in the mouth, causing it to bleed. She also claimed that "[i]n the last five weeks, there has been [a] history of violence towards the petitioner." On the date that Ms. Evans filed her petition, Judge Stephen G. Milliken entered an ex parte fourteen-day temporary protection order pursuant to D.C. Code § 16-1004 (d) (1997). A hearing on Ms. Evans' request for a one-year CPO was set for June 19, 1997 before Judge Zoe Bush.

On the scheduled trial date, Ms. Evans appeared pro se, while Mr. Tyree was represented by an attorney. At the beginning of the hearing, after ascertaining the nature of Ms. Evans' allegations, the Judge advised Tyree that he could either consent to the entry of a CPO or contest the case. The Judge then outlined her ground rules for a contested hearing, and she indicated firmly that Tyree's counsel would not be allowed to cross-examine Ms. Evans. The Judge explained to Tyree that "if there's some area of inquiry you want to raise with me . . . I may or may not pursue it," but she reiterated that she would conduct the proceeding and that there would be no cross-examination by Tyree's attorney.

In response to brief interrogation by the court, Ms. Evans testified that Tyree struck and abused her. Tyree's attorney stated that "[t]here is a question about Ms. Evans being arrested also before for . . . assaultive conduct against Mr. [Tyree]." Ms. Evans inquired whether she should answer, but the Judge directed her not to, because "I'm not asking you that." The Judge stated that "[t]he court's focus is on the incident involved with June 4th."

The Judge then asked Tyree if he was "willing to answer my questions." Tyree responded that he had nothing to say. The Judge found that there was "good cause to believe that a family offense had occurred," and she issued a CPO in which she ordered Tyree not to assault, threaten, harass or physically abuse Ms. Evans. The Judge also ordered Tyree to stay away from Ms. Evans and not to contact her in any way. In her order, the Judge further directed Tyree to enroll in and complete a ...


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