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Division III of the Washington State Court of Appeals recently ruled in Scheib v. Crosby that granting protection orders under the Domestic Violence Protection Act (DVPA) are “special proceedings” that do not require the court to apply the civil rules for superior court.

Kourtney Scheib and Christopher Crosby began a relationship in 2009 that resulted in a pregnancy. Ms. Scheib had been residing with Mr. Crosby and his parents when she decided to move in with her own parents instead. When Ms. Scheib was at the bus station, Mr. Crosby repeatedly attempted to talk with her and “trailed after her,” which Ms. Scheib saw as “stalking” and felt frightened.

District court granted a temporary domestic violence protection order against Mr. Crosby, and issued a notice of proceeding. It then granted Mr. Crosby’s request to move the case to superior court.

At superior court, Mr. Crosby requested a continuance to depose Ms. Scheib. The court found that no right existed to depose a witness in a domestic violence protection order proceeding, reasoning that it was not a civil lawsuit where the civil court rules would apply. The court then granted a permanent protection order.

Mr. Crosby appealed, claiming that hearings under the DVPA were not special proceedings and so the superior court should have allowed him to depose Ms. Scheib under civil court rules. The Division III court looked to the statute, chapter 26.5 RCW, to determine what procedural rules applied, and determined that protection orders under DVPA are special proceedings not governed by civil court rules, such as the right to depose.

There is no definition in the court rules that define a special proceeding, so the court looked to case law for guidance. It found that where the legislature enacted a law that created a new proceeding or completely changed the remedy for a situation normally allowed by a civil action, it was a special proceeding.

The court concluded that protection orders under the DVPA are special proceedings, and that while a trial court may allow discovery as it would under civil court rules, such as depositions, it is under the discretion of the trial court. Therefore, the appellate court did not find that the trial court abused its discretion in not allowing Mr. Crosby to depose Ms. Scheib.

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