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Monday, August 15, 2011

Avendano v Smith, 2011 WL 3503330 (D.N.M.) [Federal Rules of Evidence]

In Avendano v Smith, 2011 WL 3503330 (D.N.M.) Smith argued that the Federal Rules of Evidence did not apply to proceedings under the Hague Convention. The District Court disagreed with her. It observed that Rule 1101(b) of the Federal Rules of  Evidence states: "These rules apply generally to civil actions and proceedings, including admiralty and maritime cases, to criminal cases and proceedings, to contempt proceedings except those in which the court may act summarily, and to proceedings and cases under title 11, United States Code."

The cases the Court found suggested that the Federal Rules of Evidence apply in a court's consideration of a petition for return of children. It noted that in Danaipour v. McLarey, 386 F .3d 289 (1st Cir.2004), the mother removed her two daughters from the Kingdom of Sweden to the United States of America in violation of a Swedish Court order, and the father filed suit in the United States seeking to have the children returned pursuant to the "International Child Abduction Remedies Act, and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit addressed the district court's conclusion, under rule 1101(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence, that "the summary character of Hague Convention proceedings does not require application of the Federal Rules of Evidence regarding hearsay...." 386 F.3d at 296. The First Circuit stated: "While summary proceedings certainly may occur in cases under the Convention, this was not one. Indeed, this was a full trial." 386 F.3d at 296. The First Circuit stated, however: "Whatever our doubts, nonetheless, Danaipour has not directly raised on appeal the point of the applicability of the Federal Rules of Evidence; at most he argues that the mother's family's recounting of the children's statements to physicians constituted inadmissible double hearsay and was inherently unreliable."

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has also suggested that the Federal Rules of Evidence apply in adjudications of petitions for return of children under the Hague Convention. See Karkkainen v. Kovalchuk, 455 F.3d 280, 285 (3d Cir.2006)(rejecting Karkkainen's claim that the district court improperly permitted testimony regarding the daughter's best interests, stating that "Karkkainen points to no specific instances in which the District Court permitted such testimony, and we have found none within the record. We also conclude that the District Court admitted hearsay testimony only under the exceptions of the Federal Rules and properly limited its use," and concluding, "[t]hus, we find no abuse of discretion on these points").

The Court thus concluded that the Federal Rules of Evidence apply to its consideration of the Petition.