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Robinson v. Robinson

November 3, 2005


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (IF-1100-03) (Hon. Jeanette J. Clark, Trial Judge).

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

Argued September 22, 2005

Before SCHWELB, RUIZ and GLICKMAN, Associate Judges.

This is an expedited appeal from an order granting in part and denying in part a motion to amend a civil protection order (CPO). Appellant, Mary Hooker Robinson, challenges the trial court's denial of her request that the CPO require her husband, Gregory D. Robinson, to vacate and stay away from their jointly-owned property, located next door to her current residence. Because it appears, in the context of the trial court's findings, that the trial court may have accorded too much weight to appellee's property rights to the disadvantage of appellant's safety, we remand to the trial court for further proceedings.


Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, at the time of the CPO was issued, had been married for approximately thirty years. They hold joint title to two neighboring properties in the District of Columbia, one at 1224 Emerson Street, N.W., and the other right next door at 1228 Emerson Street, N.W. The houses are stand-alone properties, approximately ten to twelve feet apart. Several years before the events that led to the CPO, the Robinsons' son had fallen victim to gun violence.*fn1 Mrs. Robinson was renovating 1228 Emerson Street so that it could be used as the office of a non-profit organization she planned to start to address violence among young people in the community.

On April 11, 2003, Mrs. Robinson filed a petition seeking a CPO against Mr. Robinson, pursuant to the Intrafamily Offenses Act. D.C. Code § 16-1003 (2001). In the petition, Mrs. Robinson stated that her husband had barricaded the door to their home at 1224 Emerson Street and refused to let her in the house, and that he had destroyed her personal property. She sought a CPO ordering Mr. Robinson to stay away from her, not to abuse, threaten, harass, or otherwise contact her, and to vacate 1224 Emerson Street. She also sought a temporary protection order (TPO) pending a hearing on the CPO.

A hearing on the TPO was held the same day. Mrs. Robinson testified that she previously had obtained a TPO against her husband in 1998, when he physically attacked her. "Since then," she testified, "it has been mental abuse, verbal abuse . . . ." She testified that she had filed the petition for a CPO because Mr. Robinson had locked her out of the house and was destroying her personal property, and she was afraid of further violence. The court granted a fourteen-day TPO and set a hearing on the petition for a CPO for April 25, 2003. Mrs. Robinson failed to appear at the April 25, 2003 hearing, and the CPO petition was dismissed.

On October 7, 2003, Mrs. Robinson filed a motion to reinstate her petition for a CPO, and again sought a temporary protection order. At a hearing on the temporary protection order, she testified that she was seeking to reinstate the petition because her husband had again locked her out of the house and was threatening her. The court granted a fourteen-day TPO pending the hearing on the petition for a CPO.

On October 21, 2003, the CPO hearing was held. At the hearing, Mrs. Robinson testified in more detail about the particular incidents that prompted her April 11 petition and October 7 motion to reinstate the petition. She explained that in the very early morning of April 11, 2003, the day she filed the petition, she had come home to find the outside lights had been turned off and that her key would not open the door. She called the police, who discovered that Mr. Robinson was inside the house and had barricaded the front door with an armoire to prevent her from entering the house. After much negotiation between the police and Mr. Robinson, he finally allowed Mrs. Robinson in the house to retrieve her clothing and diabetes medication.

Mrs. Robinson testified that a similar incident occurred on October 7, 2003, causing her to seek to reinstate the CPO petition.On that date, she returned to the house late at night to find that Mr. Robinson had damaged the lock to prevent her from entering. She called him asking to be let in, informing him that she needed her medication, but he refused. She also testified that, on other occasions, Mr. Robinson had acted "in a threatening manner," using his physical size to intimidate her; that he had destroyed personal property with sentimental value to her; that he had verbally abused her; and that he had told her that she was "worth more to [him] dead than alive."

The trial court granted a CPO that ordered Mr. Robinson not to assault, threaten, harass or stalk his wife, destroy her property, or lock her out of the house. The CPO did not, however, require Mr. Robinson to vacate the couple's shared residence at 1224 Emerson Street, as requested. In its findings, the court stated that the "denial of access to the house certainly was a problem causing harm here." It stated that it credited Mrs. Robinson's testimony that her husband had told her she was "worth more dead than alive," despite his denial. As a result, the court found, pursuant to D.C. Code § 16-1005 (c),*fn2 that there was good cause to believe that Mr. Robinson had committed or was threatening to commit an intrafamily offense, and granted the CPO.

On December 1, 2003, Mrs. Robinson filed a motion to adjudicate Mr. Robinson in criminal contempt for violating the CPO. See D.C. Super. Ct. Dom. Violence R. 12 (d) (2001); D.C. Code § 16-1005 (f-g) (2005). In her sworn statement in support of that motion, Mrs. Robinson stated that Mr. Robinson had "followed [her] throughout the house calling her names and threatening her," that he had "knock[ed] her backwards," and that he had "threatened to do bodily harm" to her.

At around the same time, on December 3, 2003, Mrs. Robinson filed a motion to modify the CPO. In the motion, she stated that her husband had violated the CPO by harassing and threatening her. She explained that she believed her life was in imminent danger because of the threats Mr. Robinson was directing at her. She stated that he was smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol regularly, and that he had stolen her laptop computer, cell phone, and her keys to the house and cars. She stated that the "constant increasing threats" and actions were disrupting her "life, livelihood, and health on a daily basis." She requested that ...

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