APPELLATE PROCESS IN THE FAMILY CASES

In most family cases, the litigation does not and should not end by the Associate Judge or the Magistrate Judge’s final ruling. As these cases are not jury demandable, often times the assigned Judge may issue multiple rulings, including final decree of divorce, division of property, alimony and child support as well as the physical and legal custody of the children.  Significant and life altering decisions and all by a single Judge who may be subjectively objective. And although most family judges are experienced, fair and equitable in dispensing decisions well supported in fact and law – there are cases
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BALLISTIC IMAGING EVIDENCE — DISPOSITIVE? NOT EXACTLY …

The Court of in Williams v. U.S., decided on June 27, 2019, reiterated the legal standard for admissibility and reliability of the ballistic scientific evidence. Williams was convicted of felony murder and one of key pieces of evidence against him was a testimony of the ballistic expert who had matched the toolmarks of a weapon found in the defendant’s home against the bullet shells found at the crime scene.  The expert at trial had testified with certainty that the ballistic imaging was a 100 percent match. The Court of Appeals held that there was a lack of scientific data to
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DC CHILD SUPPORT & STATUTE OF LIMITATION

The Court of Appeals in Massey v. Massey, decided on June 20, 2019, highlighted statute of limitation on child support payments. Massey who owed over several thousand dollars of arrears in child support had petitioned the court for his support payment to be erased relying on the “Debt Statute of Limitations”. The Court of Appeal affirming the lower court decision ruled that essentially the debt of child support in arrears would be erased after the twelve year statutory period from the last payments due. Specifically, support payments constitute judgment debts as each installment becomes due and payable.  As such, the
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ASSAULT CHARGE REVERSED DUE TO 6TH AMENDMENT VIOLATION

The Court of Appeal in Green v. U.S., decided on June 13, 2019, reversed a simple assault conviction due to defendant’s 6th Amendment violation. Green was arrested after allegations of assault by his girlfriend, there was a contemporaneous 911 tape shortly after the assault reporting such. Green alleged at trial self-defense and that the complainant was the first aggressor. Defense counsel used portions of the 911 tape recording to challenge the credibility of the complainant.  The government in turn admitted the entire 911 tape into the record and defense counsel requested re-direct of the witness based on the entire 911
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ESTABLISHING PATERNITY: PRESUMPTIONS AND CHALLENGES TO PATERNITY

In order to either file or move to establish child custody or child support, first parentage has to be established. There are several ways in which the court can make a parentage determination as outlined below. Presumption of Paternity In the District, father-child paternity is presumptive under the following circumstances: If the putative father and the child’s mother are married, or in a domestic partnership either at the time of conception or birth, or between conception and birth, and the child is born during the marriage or domestic partnership. If prior to the birth of the child, the putative father
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REVERSAL OF CONVICTIONS DUE TO CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATIONS

The Court of Appeals in Hooks v. U.S., decided on May 30, 2019 reversed weapons and drug charges due to the defendant’s constitutional violations mainly the 4th Amendment. Hooks and few friends were in a barbeque gathering and an unmarked narcotics police car with was surveying the neighborhood and pulled in front the group.  The officers zeroed on Hooks and one of them ordered Hooks to stand up from his lawn chair where a bag of marijuana exceeding a legal limit was protruding from his pocket and search incident to the arrest recovered a handgun. The Court expounded that the
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RECENT COURT OF APPEALS: ASSAULT CONVICTION REVERSED

The Court of Appeals in White v. U.S., decided on May 9, 2019, reversed an aggravated assault conviction while defining and expanding on the elements needed for conviction. There are three levels of assault charges in the District: Simple Assault: the lowest level requires minimal or no injury punishable by 180 days in jail. Assault with “significant bodily injury”: the intermediate assault level requiring by definition an injury that requires hospitalization or immediate medical attention, punishable by three years of jail time. Aggravated assault, serious bodily injury generally defined as: bodily injury that involves a substantial risk of death, unconsciousness,
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DC COURT OF APPEALS: MERE TOUCH NOT AN ASSAULT

The DC Court of Appeals in Hernandez v. U.S., in overturning an assault conviction provided much needed clarity and definition to the current DC Assault Statute. Section 22-404 of the statute provides two forms of assault: (a)(1) Whoever unlawfully assaults, or threatens another in a menacing manner, shall be fined and or be imprisoned not more than 180 days, or both. (2) Whoever unlawfully assaults, or threatens another in a menacing manner, and intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes significant bodily injury to another shall be fined or be imprisoned not more than 3 years, or both. Significant bodily injury means: an injury
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COMMON LAW MARRIAGE: LEGAL ELEMENTS: SAME SEX COUPLES: DC DIVORCE LAWYER

The Court of Appeals in Gill v. Nostrand, decided on April 25, 2019, defined and analyzed the legal elements for common law marriage pertaining to same sex couples. Here Gill moved for legal separation against Nostrand requesting alimony and division of property shortly after Nostrand legally married another partner. The trial court in short determined that the relationship did not meet the requisite requirements of common law marriage, the Court of Appeals with further detailed analysis affirmed. In its ruling, the Court held that a party in a same-sex relationship must be given the opportunity to prove a common law
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REVERSAL DUE TO JURY SELECTION RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

The Court of Appeals in Haney v. U.S., decided on April 25, 2019, reversed and remanded the defendant’s weapons’ conviction based on the government’s peremptory jury strikes disproportionately excluded black jurors and black male from the jury pool. It is well established according to Batson rule that purposeful and intentional discrimination based on race or gender in the exercise of peremptory challenges is strictly prohibited. The Supreme Court had articulated in Batson a three-step process for analyzing discriminatory claims: There must be a prima facie showing that a peremptory challenge has been exercised due to race or gender; The prosecution
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