State v. Trivitt, 247 OrApp 199 (2011)

Holding:   JG, a former boyfriend, obtained an FAPA restraining order against Trivitt. Trivitt placing a sign at the end of JG’s new girlfriend’s driveway informing the new girlfriend that JG suffered from Genital Herpes did not constitute a violation of the restraining order which prohibited, among other things, “interfering” with the protected person.

1)   “When construing a statute, we examine its text in context and in light of any pertinent legislative history in order to determine the legislature’s intent.” citing State v. Gaines. at p. 203.

2)   The legislature is generally presumed to be aware of existing judicial decisions, and, to have enacted the statute with those decisions in mind. at p. 205.

3)  In the early 1990’s, the Court of Appeals, citing Webster’s, announced that, for purposes of the FAPA statute, the definition of interfere included “to take part in the concerns of others.” at p. 204.

4)  The legislature subsequently adopted a statutory definition of interfere more narrow than that of the Court, viz: “(T)o interpose in a manner that would reasonably be expected to hinder or impede a person in the petitioner’s situation.” at p. 204.

5)  When there is no statutory definition of words used in the statute, the legislature is presumed to have intended the the terms have their “plain, natural, and ordinary meaning. citing, PGE v. BOLI. at p. 205.

6)   Webster’s defines interpose, among other things, to mean “to put (oneself) between.” at p. 205.

7)  Webster’s defines hinder as “to do harm to : impair, damage” or “to make slow or difficult the course or progress of.” at p. 205.

8)  Webster’s defines impede to mean “to interfere with or get in the way of the progress of : hold up : block.” at p. 205.

9)  While it is not wholly implausible to suggest that the statutory definition of interfere includes nonphysical interference, the fact that the legislature failed to include in the statutory definition the more expansive judicial definition which already existed suggests that the legislature intended the more narrow meaning. at p. 205.

10)  To define interfere so broadly as to preclude someone from simply revealing personal information about the protected person could potentially run afoul of the constitutional protection of free speech. And, the avoidance cannon counsels that if there are two plausible constructions, one constitutional and the other not, Courts should avoid the unconstitutional construction. at p. 205-06.

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