The Utah Supreme Court has ruled that a Tooele man does not have a legal basis to have a stalking injunction against his mother.
According to an opinion filed earlier this month, the state’s highest court reversed the petition for a stalking injunction granted by the 3rd District Court in 2012 for Robert Baird against his mother, Gloria Baird.
Robert Baird, a 28-year-old man diagnosed with a seizure disorder and mental disabilities, alleged that his mother called him frequently and yelled at him, came over to his apartment uninvited, and demanded that he sign papers to place him in a group home, according to court documents.
His mother challenged the initial civil stalking injunction after it was served to her in March 2012, prompting the court hearing. Judge Robert Adkins heard arguments and granted the injunction in April 2012.
“[Robert] does not contact, and at this point in his life [Gloria’s] contact is causing him stress and emotional upset,” Adkins wrote in his ruling. “I am satisfied that the elements for the stalking injunction have been met, that it is not in his best interests at this point to have that contact.”
Gloria Baird appealed the ruling in June 2012, countering that her actions were in pursuit of her son’s well being, sending the case up the court chain.
The Utah Supreme Court, however, vacated that ruling, citing the case did not fit with the state’s stalking statute’s definition of “emotional distress.”
Utah Code’s stalking statute dictates that “a person is guilty of stalking who intentionally or knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person and knows or should know that the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for the person’s own safety or the safety of a third person; or to suffer other emotional distress.”
The Utah Supreme Court further clarified the statute’s requirements for this case to mean the behavior would be distressing to someone in Robert Baird’s circumstances.
Although Robert Baird testified that he was too afraid of his mother’s reaction to actually tell her to stop contacting him, the court’s opinion states that the test of whether a reasonable person would find Gloria Baird’s behavior objectionable in a situation like Robert Baird’s is the crux of the ruling.
“From our view of the record, we conclude that the evidence is such that reasonable minds would disagree on the issue of whether Gloria’s conduct would cause emotional distress to a reasonable person in Robert’s circumstances,” the opinion states.
Rather than dismiss the injunction entirely, the court remanded the case back to 3rd District Court with instructions to look at the context around Gloria Baird’s behavior, including the history of the pair’s mother-son relationship, and any objective factors related to Robert Baird’s disability, for the emotional distress standard.
The court was further advised to make a second ruling based on more fact-based, rather than subjective, evidence.
Robert Baird has since filed a protective order against Gloria Baird.