The Appellate Group

Anderson v. Deem

Anderson v. Deem, 2023 UT App 48 (Mortensen, J.)

Civil Stalking

Anderson sought a civil stalking injunction against Deem following a series of disturbing online interactions. The district court initially granted a temporary injunction but later revoked it, deciding Deem’s actions did not constitute a “course of conduct” under the stalking statute. It also considered Deem’s autism and a potential no-contact order in its decision. Anderson appealed, arguing that the district court applied the wrong standard and didn’t consider the cumulative effect of Deem’s actions. The Utah Court of Appeals agreed and reversed, holding:

  • The district court misapplied the “course of conduct” standard. The court should have focused on whether Deem’s actions would cause fear or emotional distress to a reasonable person in Anderson’s situation without considering Deem’s individual circumstances.
  • Practice Tip: In the civil stalking context, a single chain of electronic communications could likely establish a “course of conduct” if there are enough communications separated by “some amount of time,” each with a “different purpose.”
  • Practice Tip: A court should not focus on individual acts in isolation outside of the “overall course of conduct.” Standing alone, the culturally ubiquitous term “fuck you” is likely insufficient to support a petition for a stalking injunction. But that language together with other communications—for example, that she was a “bitch” and that he would like to see her “die”—could be enough to cause fear or emotional distress. Similarly, “I’ll see you in hell” when spoken in jest among friends is likely insufficient, but “I’ll see you in hell” coupled with “die, bitch” could reasonably instill fear or cause emotional distress.

Read the full court opinion