Assigned on Briefs May 21, 2018
from the Chancery Court for Hamilton County No. 17-0197
Pamela A. Fleenor, Chancellor.
sought disqualification of the trial court judge pursuant to
Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B. Finding no error, we
Sup. Ct. R. 10B Interlocutory Appeal as of Right; Judgment of
the Chancery Court Affirmed and Remanded
Charles William Bikas, Chattanooa, Tennessee, Pro se.
Beth Brenyas, Georgetown, Tennessee, for the appellee, Lorna
Brandon O. Gibson, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Charles D. Susano, Jr. and Richard H. Dinkins, JJ.,
BRANDON O. GIBSON, JUDGE.
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