Women and Justice: Jurisdiction

Domestic Case Law

State v. Tennant South Carolina Supreme Court (2010)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Sexual violence and rape

Defendant was married to victim for nine years.  After they divorced, defendant allegedly repeatedly called her, and later got into her vehicle and strangled her until she lost consciousness.  When she regained consciousness, she realized that she was in the trunk of her car.  He stopped the car after she kicked the speakers out.  He threatened her and then demanded that they have sex.  She stated she would have sex with him, testifying that she feared he would hurt her.  The next morning she flagged down a police officer who arrested the defendant.  When police arrested the defendant he had overdosed on his psychotic medication and police found a suicide note.  Defendant, before trial, stated an offer of proof in which he sought to introduce evidence of victim’s sexual conduct, including, inter alia, their prior sexual history, allegations of how they met and allegations of her promiscuity and adultery.  The court affirmed that the evidence was not admissible under South Carolina’s Rape Shield Statute, which states:  “The admission of a victim’s sexual conduct is limited by statute: (1) Evidence of specific instances of the victim’s sexual conduct, opinion evidence of the victim’s sexual conduct, and reputation evidence of the victim’s sexual conduct is not admissible in prosecutions under Sections 16-3-615 and 16-3-652 to 16-3-656; however, evidence of the victim’s sexual conduct with the defendant or evidence of specific instances of sexual activity with persons other than the defendant introduced to show source or origin of semen, pregnancy, or disease about which evidence has been introduced previously at trial is admissible if the judge finds that such evidence is relevant to a material fact and issue in the case and that its inflammatory or prejudicial nature does not outweigh its probative value.  Evidence of specific instances of sexual activity which would constitute adultery and would be admissible under rules of evidence to impeach the credibility of the witness may not be excluded.”

Moore v. Moore South Carolina Supreme Court (2008)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The court affirmed an order of protection in favor of the wife.  The husband had challenged the order and statutory authority on due process and equal protection grounds.  Police had arrested and charged the husband with criminal domestic violence after the couple’s son had called police and reported that the husband had become “physically abusive with him and his mother and threatened them with a weapon.”   The husband was released the next day on bond and ordered to not go near the family’s residence.  Despite the order, he drove by and entered the yard, removing several items.  The wife “filed an action pursuant to Section 20-4-50 of the ‘Protection from Domestic Abuse Act’ requesting an emergency hearing and an Order of Protection against Husband.”  At the hearing both the husband and wife appeared without counsel.  The judge asked the wife if she wanted counsel; she said she wanted to proceed with the hearing without counsel.  The husband also requested counsel; however, the judge denied the request, stating that the wife wanted to go forward.  The judge concluded that the husband had abused both wife and son, and issued an order of protection which, inter alia, “restrained Husband from committing any further abuse or from having contact with Wife and the parties’ two minor children; awarded Wife temporary custody of the parties’ children; ordered husband to pay temporary child and spousal support; and awarded Wife temporary possession of the marital home.”  The husband later, with counsel, filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that the issuance of the order violated due process because he didn’t have sufficient notice and opportunity to answer with the assistance of counsel.  The court held that the husband did receive procedural due process prior to the issuance of the Order of Protection.  However, it also found that an order of protection issued pursuant to an emergency hearing is temporary, and another hearing should be conducted by the family court at a later date.  Findings of fact are definitive and therefore improper under the statute without the assistance of counsel.  Applying that finding to this case, the court held that the finding of physical abuse was not a final adjudication and therefore could not be used against the husband in future litigation.

Frazier v. Badger South Carolina Supreme Court (2004)

Sexual harassment

Frazier, a middle school teacher, alleged that Badger, the assistant principal, sexually harassed her.  When she rejected his advances, he allegedly had her classroom moved to the basement.  The jury found that Badger’s conduct met the elements of the tort of outrage and the Court of Appeals affirmed.  The South Carolina Supreme Court, in assessing the new issues brought before it, held that Badger did not get to claim governmental immunity.  Under South Carolina law, governmental immunity would be provided to a governmental employee who commits a tort while acting in the scope of his official duty.  The court held that sexual advances do not fall within the scope of official duties.  It looked at the phrase “scope of employment,” used in insurance policies, and found that it had previously concluded that 13 is not within the “scope of employment.”  Since “scope of official duties” is a phrase construed more narrowly than “scope of employment,” it concluded that 13 could not fall under the “scope of official duties.”  The court found that Frazier’s testimony that Badger began making sexual advances towards her years before, when he was her high school basketball coach, did not warrant a mistrial.  The court also held that Frazier did not have to file a 13 claim; it was permissible to file an outrage claim.  The court rejected Badger’s argument that the Court of Appeals erred in upholding the jury’s punitive damage award, noting that “a defendant’s inability to pay does not prohibit a jury from awarding punitive damages.” 

State v. Prince South Carolina Supreme Court (1999)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Prince and his wife were married for two years.  After their divorce, his wife, Tabitha, moved into her own apartment with their son, Matthew.  Prince began visiting her occasionally without invitation or notice, under the pretext of wanting to see their son.  Despite a restraining order, Prince showed up at her apartment several times.  On one occasion, Prince slashed her tires and defaced her car.  Prince was later indicted for aggravated stalking and malicious property damage.  Prince’s counsel argued that damage to property “is not an act of violence under South Carolina Code section 16-3-1700(C) . . . sufficient to support a charge of aggravated stalking.”  The court, acknowledging that this was an issue of first impression, disagreed with Prince’s counsel, and concluded that an act of violence, for purposes of the statute, included an act of violence against property, not just against persons.  The court stated, “in our state, stalking can take many forms; it can be either a pattern of conduct causing fear of damage to one’s person, or a pattern of conduct causing fear of damage to one’s property.  If simple stalking can consist of fear of property damage, it logically follows that aggravated stalking can consist of actual property damage.”  It noted that requiring bodily injury in order to be found guilty of aggravated stalking does not promote the public policy of wanting the anti-stalking law to prevent bodily injury or death.