Typically, if a trial court denies the entry of a Final Restraining Order, the New Jersey Appellate Division will limit its review of the trial court’s decision only to whether the trial court’s ruling was “manifestly unsupported by or inconsistent with the competent, relevant and reasonably credible evidence as to offend the interests of justice.” See Gnall v. Gnall, 222 N.J. 414, 428 (2015)(citing Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 412 (1998)). Put differently, the Appellate Division will let the trial court’s decision stand unless it determines it must intervene “to ensure that there is not a denial of justice.” See N.J. Div. of Youth and Fam. Servs. v. E.P., 196 N.J. 88, 104 (2008). If the Appellate Division determines it must intervene, the usual remedy is for the Appellate Division to “remand” the case under appeal back to the trial court with instructions to revisit its ruling.
However, in the recent Appellate Division decision in N.L. v. M.B., the Appellate Division took the unusual step of ordering the trial court to enter a Final Restraining Order, reviewing the record before it as if it were the trial court. In that case, the trial court had denied the entry of a Final Restraining Order despite substantial evidence that M.B. had committed acts of domestic violence by sending numerous harassing emails and text messages over approximately five months. To demonstrate the harassing nature of the emails and text messages sent by M.B. to N.L., the Appellate Division included in its decision a chart quoting several of M.B.’s offensive emails and text messages. The Appellate Division found the evidence of harassment “so overwhelming,” that it invoked its authority to exercise “original jurisdiction.” Rather than remand the case back to the trial court for further litigation, the Appellate Division ordered the trial court to enter a Final Restraining Order in N.L.’s favor.
The case of N.L. v. M.B. demonstrates that the Appellate Division can, where the record before it “supports only one conclusion,” grant the entry of a Final Restraining Order even if the trial court has denied the Final Restraining Order. See New Jerseyans for Death Penalty Moratorium v. D.O.C., 370 N.J. Super. 11, 18 (App. Div. 2004). This case also demonstrates that when requesting the Appellate Division exercise “original jurisdiction,” the record presented to the Appellate Division must be carefully and thoroughly prepared so that it supports “only one conclusion.” Id.
If you believe the trial court should have granted your application for a Final Restraining Order, the experienced family lawyers of Donahue, Hagan, Klein & Weisberg, LLC, in Morristown, New Jersey stand ready to review your case. Contact us now to schedule a consultation.