Moore v. Moore

Moore v. Moore, 376 S.C. 467, 657 S.E.2d 743 (2008), is a published February 2008 opinion from the South Carolina Supreme Court.  Mr. Moore, a police officer, was served with an emergency domestic abuse petition at 8:00 p.m. for a hearing 9:00 a.m. the next morning.  At the hearing, he asked for a continuance and for time to confer with counsel.  The family court denied his request and ruled that he had committed domestic abuse.  Mr. Moore then hired counsel and petitioned the family court to reconsider its decision.  The family court denied his request and Mr. Moore appealed.  I was retained to handle his appeal.

Mr. Moore’s primary argument was that it violated his right to procedural due process to allow an adjudicative hearing on less than 24 hours notice.  His greatest concern was that an adjudicative finding of domestic abuse prevented him from possessing handguns, and could subject him to other potential ramifications, and that it was unfair for such determinations to be made on such short notice and without time to confer with counsel.

The Supreme Court did not find it violated due process for the family court to go forward on a domestic abuse petition with less than 24 hours notice, holding that there were important government interests in the immediate protection of domestic partners from abuse.  However, the Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Moore that such hearings, with such limited notice, could not give rise to permanent ramifications.  It found that the finding of domestic abuse against Mr. Moore was not adjudicative, and that the finding did not impact his right to possess handguns. Domestic abuse orders expire after one year and, since there was never an adjudication on Ms. Moore’s domestic abuse petition, there was never an actual adjudicative finding of domestic abuse against Mr. Moore.

Though we prevailed on only one issue in Mr. Moore’s appeal, it was the one issue he cared about: there was no permanent finding of domestic abuse and he could again possess a handgun.  This opinion changed the law on domestic abuse hearings and established the non-adjudicative nature of emergency domestic abuse hearings.