Mandate Issued: 05/15/2019
FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF WOODS COUNTY, OKLAHOMA HONORABLE
MICKEY HADWIGER, TRIAL JUDGE.
Heath Stevenson, STEVENSON LAW FIRM, P.L.L.C., Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma, for Petitioner/Appellee,
L. Gentry, GUNGOLL, JACKSON, BOX, & DEVOLL, P.C., Enid,
Oklahoma, for Defendant/Appellant.
Kenneth L. Buettner, Judge.
Defendant/Appellant Michael David Zimmerman (Mr. Zimmerman)
appeals the entry of a protective order against him.
Petitioner/Appellee Sage Nikole Sunderland (Ms. Sunderland),
the ex-girlfriend of Mr. Zimmerman, sought the protective
order after their tumultuous relationship came to an end.
After denying Mr. Zimmerman the opportunity to conduct
discovery prior to the final hearing, the trial court granted
the final protective order against him. We hold that the
trial court abused its discretion by disallowing Mr.
Zimmerman the opportunity to conduct discovery in accordance
with the Oklahoma Discovery Code. We therefore reverse and
remand with instructions to allow discovery.
Mr. Zimmerman, a resident of Alva, and Ms. Sunderland, a
resident of Stillwater, met in Alva during the summer of 2017
and began a romantic relationship. When Ms. Sunderland's
college classes resumed in the fall of 2017, the relationship
became long-distance and the two traveled between Stillwater
and Alva in order to see one another. According to the
record, Mr. Zimmerman and Ms. Sunderland's relationship
was fraught with jealousy and discord for nearly the entire
While dating, Mr. Zimmerman and Ms. Sunderland agreed to
"share" their GPS location with one another on a
continuous basis. The couple also maintained an "open
phone policy," where both parties would regularly
inspect the social media interactions of the other by looking
through the contents of each other's cellular phones.
These "inspections" would result in disagreements
between Mr. Zimmerman and Ms. Sunderland, during which
jealous behavior and a lack of emotional restraint were often
exhibited. Name-calling, use of foul language, and threats of
breaking off the relationship were characteristic of these
Despite the recurrent tension between the couple, the
relationship continued into late fall of that year. The
disagreements eventually culminated in a final series of
heated interactions on November 6, 2017. The evidence
presented at trial indicates that on November 6, Ms.
Sunderland became angry when Mr. Zimmerman abruptly ceased
communications with her. Late that night, Ms. Sunderland
drove from her place of residence in Stillwater to Mr.
Zimmerman's home in Alva. En route, Ms. Sunderland
continued to attempt to contact Mr. Zimmerman, indicating a
state of extreme emotional distress. Upon her arrival in
Alva, Ms. Sunderland learned that Mr. Zimmerman was not at
his home, but was actually at the home of his ex-wife, along
with his minor children. Further angered by this fact, Ms.
Sunderland entered Mr. Zimmerman's house without his
permission and proceeded to ransack his home.
Following this incident, around 1:00 A.M. on November 7, Ms.
Sunderland contacted her parents and disclosed to them the
volatile nature of her relationship with Mr. Zimmerman. Her
parents consequently advised her to file a protective order
against Mr. Zimmerman. Ms. Sunderland agreed and filed a
Petition for Protective Order that morning. After an ex
parte hearing, an Emergency Order of Protection was
issued that same day, November 7, 2017. A full hearing on the
Petition was set for November 15, 2017.
Both parties appeared with counsel at the November 15
hearing. Mr. Zimmerman requested a continuance, which the
trial court granted and set the final hearing for December 8,
2017. Mr. Zimmerman submitted discovery requests to Ms.
Sunderland on November 21, 2017, but she refused to respond
to the requests. On November 28, 2017, Mr. Zimmerman filed a
Motion to Shorten Time to Respond to Discovery, or, in the
Alternative, Motion for Continuance. A telephonic hearing on
the Motion was conducted December 5, 2017, in which the trial
court denied the Motion. Mr. Zimmerman's Motion to
Reconsider Ruling of December 5, 2017, was similarly denied,
and Mr. Zimmerman did not receive discovery prior to the
December 8, 2017 hearing.
At the December 8 hearing, Ms. Sunderland presented her own
testimony, as well as text messages, pictures, and audio
recordings of conversations with Mr. Zimmerman. Counsel for
Mr. Zimmerman objected to the admission of the visual and
audio evidence, stating Ms. Sunderland had failed to provide
the evidence in response to discovery requests. Mr. Zimmerman
also presented his own testimony, pictures, text messages,
and an attempted partial transcription of an audio recording
presented by Ms. Sunderland. Following the hearing, the trial
court entered a five-year final Order of Protection against
Mr. Zimmerman, which included the requirement that Mr.
Zimmerman attend a 52-week batterer prevention program. Ms.
Sunderland was also awarded attorney fees in the amount of
Mr. Zimmerman now appeals from the trial court's issuance
of the final Order of Protection and award of attorney fees.
On appeal, Mr. Zimmerman argues (1) that the trial court
abused its discretion by denying him the opportunity to
conduct discovery, and (2) that the trial court's
issuance of the five-year final protective order was not
supported by the evidence.
Protective orders granted to victims of domestic abuse,
stalking, or harassment are governed by the Protection from
Domestic Abuse Act (the Act). 22 O.S.Supp. 2013 § 60.2.
Proceedings under the Act are reviewed for abuse of
discretion. Curry v. Streater, 2009 OK 5, ¶ 8,
213 P.3d 550. Under an abuse of discretion standard, an
appellate court should examine the record on appeal and
reverse only if the trial ...