Georgia Supreme Court Dissolves Stalking And Restraining Order Against Fire Chief

Terry Pilcher was the Fire Chief for the City of Loganville, Georgia Fire Department. Jason Stribling and Carl Morrow were Department employees. Relationships between the three became so troubled that Stribling and Morrow sought a protective order against Pilcher for stalking. Stribling and Morrow alleged verbal abuse directed toward them in the workplace as well as physical assaults occurring primarily during basketball games conducted as part of their required physical training.

The trial court agreed with Stribling and Morrow, and issued a restraining order enjoining Pilcher from coming within 500 yards of the two, and allowing Pilcher to continue to perform his duties as Fire Chief only when accompanied by a person able to give independent and credible testimony as to his actions toward Stribling and Morrow. Pilcher then appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.

The Court, unconvinced that the situation fit Georgia’s stalking statute, dissolved the restraining order. The Court started with the proposition that the definition of stalking under Georgia law was “when an individual both follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about place or places without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person.” The Court concluded that “Pilcher was clearly not following Stribling and Morrow. In addition they had failed to show that Pilcher’s contacts meet the statutory definition of ‘harassing and intimidating’ conduct which serves no legitimate purpose. Physical assaults occurred during basketball games initiated for the legitimate purpose of physical training. The verbal taunts, which occurred at various times during working hours and included ‘cursing, threatening employees’ jobs, and belittling employees’ intelligence, personal life, weight, sexual inexperience or financial situation,’ were not sufficient to create a reasonable fear for the safety of Stribling and Morrow or their families.”

Pilcher v. Stribling, 2007 WL 1728718 (Ga. 2007).

This article appears in the August 2007 issue