District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Paul G.
Maughan No. 154906899
C. Lewis, Attorney for Appellant.
Alan Jensen, Appellee Pro Se.
Gregory K. Orme authored this Opinion, in which Judges J.
Frederic Voros Jr. and Jill M. Pohlman concurred.
Timothy Ruflin appeals the district court's decision
overruling his objection to a protective order entered
against him. We agree with the district court that the
protective order was not barred by either the doctrine of res
judicata or the Cohabitant Abuse Act's limitations on
mutual protective orders. Further, we conclude that the court
acted within its discretion when denying Ruflin's request
to continue the hearing on his objection. Accordingly, we
On October 21, 2015, Ruflin spotted his brother-in-law, Craig
Alan Jensen, and resolved to pick a fight. On that day
Ruflin's mother's house was being reroofed, and
Ruflin sat with her on her porch while they waited for the
work to be completed. As they sat, they noticed that not far
down the road a white truck was approaching "very
slowly." Both immediately recognized that the truck
belonged to Jensen. As Jensen often would, he acknowledged
his mother- and brother-in-law by tapping his horn as he
passed by. His mother-in-law waved back. Ruflin offered a
less cordial gesture.
Jensen had not made it more than a "house or house and a
half up the street" before he slammed on his brakes,
sped backward, and came to a stop in front of the porch. He
got out of his truck and an altercation ensued. It is unclear
who threw the first punch. In its oral findings, the district
court would later refer to the incident as a "mutual
confrontation." Likewise, the reasons for the
brothers-in-laws' mutual hostility are rather murky. What
is clear, however, is that Jensen emerged from the fight with
a stab wound.
Not long after the incident, Ruflin petitioned the district
court for a protective order against Jensen. The court set
the matter for hearing on November 30, 2015, before
Commissioner Blomquist. After hearing from both parties,
Commissioner Blomquist issued a protective order directing
that Jensen was not to "commit or threaten to commit any
form of violence against" Ruflin, that he was not to
"contact . . . or communicate" with Ruflin "in
any way, " and that he was to "[s]tay away
from" the homes of both Ruflin and Ruflin's mother.
Contrary to Ruflin's repeated representations in his
opening brief, however, Commissioner Blomquist's order
was far from the first protective order issued in this case.
In fact, by the time Ruflin obtained his protective order
against Jensen, Jensen had already obtained three separate
protective orders against Ruflin, albeit temporary
ones. Jensen filed an initial petition for a
protective order against Ruflin the day after the incident,
and the district court scheduled a hearing before
Commissioner Casey on November 5, 2015. On the day
Jensen's petition was filed, the court entered a
temporary protective order against Ruflin that was scheduled
to expire automatically on the petition's hearing date.
Ruflin did not appear at that hearing. The court therefore
scheduled a second hearing two weeks later and entered a
second temporary protective order, which, like the first, was
scheduled to expire on the date of the hearing. Once again,
Ruflin did not appear. The court then scheduled a third
hearing and issued a third temporary order, and Ruflin
finally appeared before Commissioner Casey on December 3,
At this third hearing, after receiving "argument and
evidence, " Commissioner Casey concluded that a
permanent protective order should indeed issue against
Ruflin. The terms of Commissioner Casey's protective
order (the Order) largely mirrored those of Commissioner
Blomquist's order against Jensen.
On December 17, 2015, Ruflin filed a "partial
objection" (the Objection) to the Order in the district
court pursuant to section 78B-7-107 of the Cohabitant Abuse
See Utah Code Ann. § 78B-7-107(1)(f)
(LexisNexis 2012). While the Objection was untimely under
that section, which provides that objections must be filed
"within 10 days of the entry of the [commissioner's]
recommended order, " id., the district court
did not dismiss it on that basis. Ruflin thereafter filed two
separate amendments to the Objection-one on December 22,
2015, and another on January 6, 2016. Finally, on January 25,
2016, he requested that the matter be submitted for decision.
The court scheduled an evidentiary hearing on the Objection
for February 16, 2016 (the Objection Hearing).
With a little more than a week to go before the Objection
Hearing, Ruflin secured new legal counsel, and new counsel
entered an appearance on February 8, 2016. That attorney
withdrew from the case the very next day,
however, and another attorney, Ruflin's current counsel,
immediately entered an appearance on his behalf. By then, the
Objection Hearing was only six days away.
After entering his initial appearance, Ruflin's new
attorney filed a motion to continue the Objection Hearing. In
the motion, counsel argued that a continuance was proper
because he was new to the case and had not been given
adequate time to prepare, that there were
"[e]yewitnesses to the attack . . . [who] must be
located and subpoenaed, " and that in any event Jensen
could not establish that he would be prejudiced by the
continuance. Counsel added that he had only just returned
from a "scheduled vacation in St. George." Finally,