Thursday, January 19, 2012

PFA - family/household member - relationship by affinity - child of long-time paramour

Commonwealth v. Walsh - Superior Court - January 19, 2012

Conviction for contempt of PFA order upheld for violating terms of order prohibiting threats. Appellant threatened the protected party -- S.S., the teen-age daughter of his paramour of 13 years -- when he told the daughter's friend that if he saw SS, "she'd be fucked." The friend relayed this message to SS, who went to the police, who filed a contempt petition.

Challenge to SS's status as a protected party because of lack of a family relationship was rejected. SS had lived with appellant for about 13 years, during which time he treated her as a stepdaughter. She left appellant's home because he had sexually abused her.

The court determined that Appellant and SS were related by affinity. The term “affinity” is not defined in the PFA Act. See 23 Pa.C.S. § 6102. The dictionary defines “affinity” as, inter alia, “related by marriage or by ties other than those of blood.” Webster’s American Dictionary, 14 (2nd College ed. 2000) (emphasis added). Instantly, S.S. has ties other than those of blood to Appellant as S.S.’s two half-siblings are the natural children of Appellant and S.S.’s mother. Given the remedial purpose of the PFA Act it is incumbent upon us to interpret “affinity” so as to include this relationship.

Challenge to sufficiency of the evidence also rejected, since the order prohibited contact with SS, either directly or through third parties.

Appellant's subpoena of phone records was properly rejected, where it was not served until the day before the contempt hearing.