Before Judges Havey, Coburn and Weissbard. On appeal from Superior
Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Mercer County,
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Coburn, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Plaintiff, accompanied by the three children of her marriage to defendant, fled from him in Mississippi, seeking refuge in New Jersey, after he severely beat her, threatened her life with a handgun, and swore that if she left him he would track her down and kill her and their children. When defendant began placing telephone calls to New Jersey in an effort to locate her and the children, plaintiff applied ex parte to the Chancery Division for a temporary restraining order pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -33 (the "Act"). The trial court found that an emergency restraining order was necessary to prevent the recurrence of domestic violence.
Thereafter, defendant, who did not appear but was represented by counsel, moved to dismiss the order, contending that the trial court lacked both subject matter jurisdiction, because he committed the violent acts in another state, and personal jurisdiction, because he had insufficient contacts with New Jersey. His motion was denied and the matter was scheduled for trial. Defendant did not appear at the trial; however, his attorney continued to maintain that the court lacked jurisdiction. A final restraining order was issued, and defendant appealed.
Ultimately, the sole issue presented to us was whether the trial court had personal jurisdiction over defendant. In other words, was it a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution to apply the Act, for the purpose of protecting a victim who has fled here for safety, to a defendant who had committed acts of domestic violence against the victim in another state, coupled with threats to seek revenge against the victim wherever she went, and then had placed telephone calls to this state to discover her location. Our answer is no. Therefore, we affirm.
The parties met in New Jersey in 1985; the victim had been reared here and the defendant had lived here for about six years. Her sister resides in New Jersey, as does his brother and three nieces. After the birth of their first child, they moved to Mississippi, where they were married in 1987, and where their other two children were born. In 1988 and 1989, the parties returned to live in New Jersey for short periods of time.
In Mississippi, defendant subjected plaintiff to various forms of mental and physical abuse throughout their marriage. He prevented her from having friends, severely twisted her arm on one occasion, insisted on leaving a handgun and bullets around the house in locations easily accessible to the children, and often forced her to engage in sexual acts that she considered "outside the norm." He also threatened to bring home college women "just so I could watch them in the act [of sexual intercourse] and so I could join in[,] and he was going to get a camcorder and record it to make his own videos."
Defendant's abusive conduct was also directed at the children.
Plaintiff gave this description of a beating inflicted on one of the children when she was six years old:
He got . . . a piece of limb and . . . he beat her from one end of the house to the next[,] screaming[,] jumping on the furniture, bumping her head, bumping her back on furniture, hiding under the counter. He went and he flinged and overturned the bed after she tried to hide under the bed and he whip her some more. And I tried run and scream behind him and try to tell him to stop and he say you better the hell out of my way before I put this on you too.
She also indicated that defendant would beat this child "almost once a week." She added that the child, who is now fourteen years old, "still have gashes and marks all over her body. Each time he beat her like that, she had . . . bleeding . . . ." Of another child, plaintiff said that when he was at least 10 years old[,] [h]e brought a D home in Math. I suggested to him that he may need some tutoring. He say he don't need no damn tutoring. He just lazy. So, he proceeded to go in and grab Junior out of his room like he do when he get them for a beating, snatch them up by the collar or by the pants and snatch them up. And when he got the extension cord out of the wall and doubled it and just use it and just beat him down through the house and when he . . . try to escape or try to run to me, he just kept whipping him and chasing him through the house and the bathroom, under the beds, in the closets, all throughout the house. And whenever I try to go toward him or try to get him to stop or tell him that was enough, he just turn to me and say get the heck out of my way before I - I [w]ring your damn neck you don't get out my way.
Turning to her youngest child, plaintiff recounted that when the school called and told defendant that the child, then age seven, had been talking back to one of her teachers, he . . . got a leather belt . . . and start to beat her through the house just like he do the other ones. And she's just a tiny little child and he just use all of his strength and just beat her all across ...