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R.D v. P.M

December 21, 2011

R.D., PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
P.M., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. David J. Cowan, Temporary Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. SS019955)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chaney, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Affirmed.

Therapist R.D. believed she was being stalked and harassed by P.M., a former patient.*fn1 On June 1, 2009 R.D. obtained a one-year civil harassment restraining order under Code of Civil Procedure section 527.6. The order restrained P.M. from harassing or contacting R.D. or her family, and prohibited P.M. from coming within 100 yards of R.D., her office, her family members, or her children's schools.

After the restraining order's one-year term expired at the end of May 2010, however, P.M.'s harassment resumed--or so R.D. believed. She was confronted by P.M. at her local market in a manner she considered threatening; she found dozens of consumer-review websites posted with P.M.'s messages attacking her personal and professional conduct; flyers with disparaging messages were posted and reposted by P.M. at the entrance to her office building, on nearby cars, and in front of her son's elementary school; and she learned that P.M. had begun undertaking volunteer activities at her children's elementary and middle schools.

Taking these events to indicate that P.M. had resumed her harassment, R.D. sought a renewal of the civil harassment restraining order. The court granted the second restraining order on October 22, 2010, finding that the first order apparently had not "sent home the message." The second order restrains P.M. from harassing or contacting R.D. or her family, and prohibits P.M. from coming within 100 yards of R.D., her office, her family members, their vehicles, or her children's schools, this time for a three-year term.

P.M. appeals from the second order, contending that as a matter of law the material facts do not support a finding of harassment, and that the injunction unconstitutionally restricts her freedom of speech. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

R.D. is a licensed clinical social worker with a psychotherapy practice in Culver City, California. P.M. had been R.D.'s patient for three or more years, until R.D. terminated the therapy on October 31, 2008. R.D. ended the therapy because P.M. had become increasingly hostile toward her, had screamed obscenities at her, had refused to leave her office, had obtained her home phone number and used it to call her home repeatedly, and had threatened to stalk her and to "'hang around your car.'"

The first harassment restraining order

After the therapy ended, R.D. believed she was being stalked and threatened by P.M. She believed that P.M. followed her to her son's school and to his baseball practice; that P.M. began volunteering at her children's schools; and that P.M. had made false reports about her to a local police detective.

About six weeks after R.D. ended the therapy, P.M. confronted R.D. in a stairwell of her office building, begging her to resume the therapy (which R.D. refused to do). In late-January 2009, P.M. telephoned R.D. a number of times, threatening to file a "'client abandonment'" complaint with R.D.'s licensing board unless R.D. took her back as a client.*fn2 In early February 2009, R.D. received repeated calls from P.M. (which she did not answer), and a number of professional colleagues with offices in her building received appointment requests from P.M. (or in one case, from a caller who would not identify herself, but who had P.M.'s caller i.d.). P.M. also confronted R.D. with verbal hostility in the parking lot of R.D.'s son's school, where P.M. had apparently followed her, again demanding that she take P.M. back as a client. And the next day R.D. received a voicemail message from P.M. stating that P.M. had seen R.D. "'swearing'" at her "'through a window.'"

At that point R.D. filed a police report for stalking, and spoke with the principals of her children's schools. The principal of her daughter's middle school said that he was first contacted by P.M. on November 6, 2008 (one week after R.D. terminated P.M.'s therapy) in connection with the promotion of a Ballona Wetlands event. The principal of her son's elementary school said P.M. had approached her, unsolicited, on January 6, 2010, to promote and assist with a planned soccer event. According to R.D., P.M. did not live in Culver City, she had no children of her own, and she had never indicated during the course of her therapy that she had worked with elementary or middle school students or had volunteered at any Culver City schools.

In mid-February 2009, a police detective advised R.D. that P.M. had told him she works with Culver City schools, and that R.D. had had a sexual relationship with her at her apartment. Soon afterward, R.D. began to find numerous postings on consumer-related internet sites, which she attributed to P.M., accusing R.D. of being "'unstable'" and "'abusive.'" And in mid-March she was told by the representative of a debt-collection agency that P.M. had given R.D.'s name regarding an outstanding hospital bill.

In early April 2009, R.D. saw P.M. at R.D.'s son's baseball practice at a local park, and immediately afterward she received (but did not answer) two cell-phone calls from P.M. That night she received an email from P.M. that she characterized as harassing, through her listing on a profession-related internet site. Early the next week she learned that P.M. had attended a luncheon at R.D.'s daughter's middle school the previous week, at which a group of students of which her daughter was a member had been introduced (although it turned out that her daughter had not attended the luncheon). Later that month she learned that P.M. was involved in a media project with her daughter's next-door friend.

At the beginning of May 2009, R.D. found numerous new derogatory postings about her on various internet sites, which she believed had been posted by P.M.*fn3 And she received another email from P.M., addressed to her through a professional publication, accusing her of being ...


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