Women and Justice: Court: Court of Appeals of Texas – Houston District

Domestic Case Law

Wilkerson v. Wilkerson Court of Appeals of Texas – Houston District (2010)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Linett Wilkerson was the widowed third wife of James Wilkerson. Dennis Wilkerson was James’s adult son from his first marriage.  After her husband died, Linett explained to Dennis that she intended to help run one of the family businesses, a golf course.  Dennis became furious. told Linett that she had no business in the golf course, and instructed her to follow him outside where he pulled a gun out and shot some soda cans, telling Linett that he was “a good shot” and “I never miss” and that he “always [had] plenty of ammunition.” On another occasion he told Linett not to “get in his way” or “something would happen” to her.  After Dennis repeatedly refused Linett’s attempts to obtain financial information about the business in order to probate James’s estate, Linett filed a lawsuit.  Williams, a friend of Dennis’s, came to Linett’s house twice and threatened her and her children.  The trial court issued a family violence protective order against Dennis on behalf of Linett and her children.  Dennis asserted that it was not an appropriate case for the issuance of a family violence protective order because “Linett and Dennis have never shared a household” and their family relationship was “attenuated” since she was his father’s third wife.  The court held that their relationship was one of family under section 71.004(1) of the Texas Family Code, since Linett and Dennis were related by affinity and Dennis and Linett’s children were half-siblings.  In other words, step-families fall within the “family violence” provisions of the Code even where they do not share a household.  Moreover, the evidence was legally and factually sufficient for issuance of the protective order.

Vongontard v. Tippit Court of Appeals of Texas – Houston District (2004)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Gregory Vongontard and Misty Tippit broke up after two-and-a-half years of dating.  After the break-up, Gregory began threatening Misty by backing her into walls and corners, calling her names, throwing house keys at her as she attempted to return them to him, calling her numerous times and demanding to know where she was and who she was with, and threatening to “kill the guy” she was dating.  Misty also testified that Gregory had been physically violent on three occasions while they were dating (trying to hit her, pushing her against a wall, and pushing her to the ground).  A “dating violence” protective order issued against Gregory pursuant to the Texas Family Code, sections 71.001 to 87.004.  Gregory contended that the evidence was insufficient to show that he committed dating violence against Misty.  The court held that there was “more than a scintilla” of evidence of past violence since the evidence showed that Gregory had thrice pushed Misty, putting her in fear of imminent physical harm.  The court further held that the finding of future incidents of dating violence was likewise supported by sufficient evidence since Gregory had continued to threaten Misty post-break-up.