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Gibson v. Bikas

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 4, 2018


          Assigned on Briefs May 21, 2018

          Appeal from the Chancery Court for Hamilton County No. 17-0197 Pamela A. Fleenor, Chancellor.

         Appellant sought disqualification of the trial court judge pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B. Finding no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 10B Interlocutory Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed and Remanded

          Charles William Bikas, Chattanooa, Tennessee, Pro se.

          Emily Beth Brenyas, Georgetown, Tennessee, for the appellee, Lorna Gibson.

          Brandon O. Gibson, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr. and Richard H. Dinkins, JJ., joined.




         This appeal follows the Hamilton County Chancery Court's denial of a recusal motion, which is governed by Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B. The underlying facts of this case have been more fully described by this Court in Gibson v. Bikas, 2018 WL 1124507, No. E2017-00883-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 28, 2018) (perm. app. pending). The relevant portions of the underlying facts are:

At issue on appeal is an order of protection sought by the petitioner, Lorna Mae Gibson, against the respondent, her brother-in-law, Charles William Bikas. Ms. Gibson had obtained a previous order of protection, which was granted by the Hamilton County Chancery Court ("trial court"), with Chancellor Pamela A. Fleenor presiding, on May 19, 2015 ("2015 OP"). Although the 2015 OP is not in the record on appeal, it is undisputed that in the 2015 OP, the trial court required Mr. Bikas to have no contact with Ms. Gibson or her two minor daughters ("the Children"), who were six and two years of age at the time the 2015 OP was entered. The 2015 OP expired on May 19, 2016, without Ms. Gibson's having filed a petition for an extension.
The series of events underlying the 2015 OP began in the fall of 2014 when a referral was called in to the Department of Children's Services ("DCS") against Ms. Gibson, who had been residing with the Children. At the time of the DCS referral, the Children were placed in the temporary custody of Ms. Gibson's sister, Jessica Bikas, and her sister's husband, Mr. Bikas. After approximately two months, Mr. and Ms. Bikas separated, and Ms. Bikas filed a petition for an order of protection against her husband, alleging that he had threatened violence against her if he lost custody of the Children. In March 2015, the youngest child, N.M., was placed with paternal relatives, and the oldest child, A.W., entered DCS custody and was placed with non-relative foster parents. It is undisputed that Ms. Bikas's petition for an order of protection was subsequently dismissed. Later in the spring of 2015, Mr. Bikas, still separated from Ms. Bikas, co-signed a lease with Ms. Gibson concerning an apartment. Ms. Gibson subsequently alleged that Mr. Bikas repeatedly tried to coerce her into a romantic relationship by threatening to remove his name from the lease and threatening to take legal action to obtain custody of the Children. Ms. Gibson filed the petition for the 2015 OP the day after Mr. Bikas allegedly stayed overnight in her apartment without permission and allegedly sexually molested her. Although on appeal in this action, Mr. Bikas vehemently denies Ms. Gibson's allegations underlying the 2015 OP, he acknowledges that he consented to the trial court's entry of the original order without an evidentiary hearing. Mr. Bikas asserts on appeal that he agreed to the 2015 OP "so that he could break the apartment lease" with Ms. Gibson.
In the meantime, A.W. was residing in the spring of 2015 with her foster parents within the same school district where she had previously lived with Ms. Gibson. A.W. resumed attendance at the elementary school where she previously had been a student, and she resumed speech and language therapy with Ginger Vitrano, a speech and language pathologist who had provided therapy to A.W. in the past. Ms. Vitrano testified in this matter that she became concerned after observing changes in A.W.'s behavior, particularly changes denoting sexually reactive behavior. Ms. Vitrano subsequently applied with DCS to provide a foster placement for A.W. Upon approval, Ms. Vitrano provided foster care to A.W. for approximately eighteen months. A.W. was eventually placed in the custody of her biological father, who is not a party to this action. Ms. Gibson's younger daughter has remained in her original foster placement since the Children's removal from Ms. Gibson's home. At some point in 2015, Mr. and Ms. Bikas reconciled.
Ms. Gibson commenced the instant action, initially acting pro se, by filing a petition for an order of protection against Mr. Bikas on March 24, 2017. She again sought a one-year order requiring Mr. Bikas to have no contact with her or the Children, who were by then eight and four years of age. In her petition, Ms. Gibson repeated the factual allegations underlying the 2015 OP and averred that since entry of the 2015 OP, Mr. Bikas had continued his ...

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