COA reverses protective order on basis of res judicata

In a case that Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Rudolph Pyle described as a “prime example of forum shopping,” the appellate court has reversed the grant of a petitioner’s third petition for a protective order because the petition is barred by the doctrine of res judicata.

In February 2016, M.G. and V.P. were involved in a physical altercation that resulted in V.P. being charged with battery against M.G. M.G. subsequently filed for a protective order against V.P., and the Lake Superior Court 2 executed an ex parte order against V.P. the same day.

V.P. also filed for a protective order against M.G., alleging that M.G. had stalked her. Lake Superior Court 6 denied the petition, finding that V.P. had not proven her case by a preponderance of the evidence.

V.P. then filed a similar protective order in Lake Superior Court 3, which also denied the motion. When Lake Superior Court 2 held a hearing on M.G.’s protective order petition in May 2016, the judge entered a protective order against V.P.

The same day, V.P. filed a third petition for protective order against M.G. in Lake Superior Court 2, which issued an ex parte order against M.G. At a subsequent hearing, M.G. argued that the third protective order petition should have been dismissed on the bases of res judicata and collateral estoppel and further argued that V.P. had shown a pattern of moving from court to court to get the result she wanted.

The trial court, however, questioned the judgments of the previous two courts against V.P., noting that it was particularly concerned about issue of domestic violence between the parties. The court ordered that V.P.’s third petition would stay in effect until May 6, 2017, prompting M.G.’s appeal in M.G. v. V.P., 45A05-1608-PO-1855.

The appellate court agreed with M.G.’s res judicata argument, with Pyle writing in a Thursday opinion that while the appellate judges appreciate the trial court’s concern about domestic violence, they cannot condone the court’s disregard of res judicata.

“Here, the trial court ruled on the same allegation that had been previously addressed by a prior court,” Pyle wrote. “Because such ruling was barred by res judicata, we reverse the trial court’s judgments and reverses with instructions to vacate the protected order against M.G.

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