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A Better Partnership
December 19, 2012

COA Opinion: A referee may conduct a hearing for a personal protection order

The Court of Appeals addressed the validity of a personal protection order entered by a court following a hearing conducted by a a referee. In an opinion authored by Judge Krause in Visser v. Visser, No. 301864; 305900, the Court concluded that a PPO issued under those circumstance was valid. The Court reviewed the statute (and related court rules) that permits referees to hear domestic relations matters and, while noting that the statute did not specifically mention PPO hearings, found that it was broad enough to encompass PPO hearings. The opinion also cited various cases where a referee had conducted a PPO hearing and such conduct was not challenged by the parties or the courts. Finally, the court noted that because the order itself was issued by the court, the referee did not improperly usurp judicial power. Judge Markey joined in the majority opinion. Judge Shapiro filed a dissent arguing that the statute and rules clearly identify the types of proceeding that can be heard by a referee, and that because PPO hearings are not referenced in those provisions referees cannot conduct these type of hearings.

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