December 30, 2011
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hunterdon County, Docket No. FV-10-000312-11.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 5, 2011
Before Judges Parrillo and Alvarez.
Defendant R.M.B. appeals from the Law Division's March 3, 2011 final restraining order (FRO) entered pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 (Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. Because the FRO was later vacated by order of March 22, 2011, we dismiss the appeal for want of a live controversy.
Defendant and plaintiff J.C.S. had a dating relationship and lived together for four years. The relationship ended in October 2010 and, according to plaintiff, ever since then, defendant has been harassing her and causing her to be fearful of him. For example, on December 19, 2010, defendant walked into the home of a mutual friend, uninvited and without knocking, where he found plaintiff, whose car was parked outside. According to plaintiff, their mutual friend had not even provided defendant with his current address. On February 7, 2011, defendant called plaintiff and told her exactly where she was and what she was doing inside the home of her sister, where she was living. Once again, defendant had no reason to know of plaintiff's sister's address and plaintiff was frightened by this development. On February 15, 2011, defendant called plaintiff fifteen times and several days later, on February 21, 2011, appeared at her place of employment yelling at her and causing a scene.
Defendant basically denied these allegations, explaining that he was returning plaintiff's phone calls to him on February 15 and went to her job on February 21 simply to "drop some stuff off[,]" although the two had a "few words." Also, defendant "just happened" to go to his friend's home on the morning of December 19, 2010, where he found plaintiff with him.
At the close of evidence, the Family Part judge credited plaintiff's testimony, dismissed defendant's complaint against plaintiff, and concluded that defendant had committed acts of harassment against plaintiff prohibited under the Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(a)(13). Specifically, the judge found:
I do not find that [plaintiff's] complaint against [defendant] to be one involving ordinary domestic disagreements which commonly attend the breakup of a relationship. Rather, I find that based upon the credible testimony of [plaintiff] that [defendant] engaged in conduct which constitutes a predicate act under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act in that he engaged in conduct which harassed, that is seriously bothered or annoyed [plaintiff] over a period of time.
I am particularly disturbed about the phone call which I find to be entirely credible or entirely supported by credible testimony of February 7 when [defendant] called and told [plaintiff] what she was doing and described her activities.
Several weeks later, plaintiff requested dismissal of the matter and on March 22, 2011, the Family Part judge entered an order dismissing plaintiff's domestic violence complaint and dissolving the FRO.
Despite the vacatur of the FRO, defendant appeals, arguing it was error to have issued the order in the first instance.
Although we find the credible evidence sufficient to support issuance of the FRO and otherwise would have affirmed the Family Part's determination, we dismiss the appeal because the original issue presented has been resolved, rendering the matter moot and any decision on the merits of no practical effect. De Vesa v. Dorsey, 134 N.J. 420, 428 (1993) (Pollack, J., concurring); Oxfeld v. N.J. State Bd. of Educ., 68 N.J. 301, 303 (1975); Greenfield v. N.J. Dep't of Corr., 382 N.J. Super. 254, 257-58 (App. Div. 2006). Although defendant speculates that collateral consequences may befall him merely by virtue of the FRO's original issuance, he has neither offered any legal support for this notion nor identified any prospective harm to which he is actually exposed. The controversy between the parties having ceased to exist, accordingly we decline to decide the appeal on its merits.
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