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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Reyes v Jeffcoat, 2012 WL 4009641 (D.S.C.) [Venezuela] [Federal & State Judicial Remedies] [Evidence]


In Reyes v Jeffcoat, 2012 WL 4009641 (D.S.C.) Maritza Meszaros Reyes, filed a petition seeking a declaration that respondent, Harry Lee Langford Jeffcoat,
had wrongfully retained the parties' two minor children in the United States and that
Venezuela, not the United States, was the "habitual residence" of the children pursuant to the Hague Convention. In an order dated June 27, 2012, the court disagreed with the petitioner, determining that the respondent had not wrongfully retained the children and that the United States was the habitual residence of the children involved in this case.

After the court rendered its decision adversely to the petitioner, the petitioner filed a
motion to alter or amend the judgment on the ground that the court had neglected to rule upon one set of evidentiary submissions advanced by the petitioner during her case-in-chief. The court now made an order memorializing the court's ruling on the
disputed evidence.

Near the end of her case-in-chief, the petitioner offered "the amended verified
petition" in evidence. Respondent objected, arguing that "it contains hearsay within hearsay." Petitioner's counsel argued that "under the Hague Convention and under ICARA, the petition and the attachments were admissible." Respondent argued that the Hague Convention merely provides for a waiver of all authentication requirements but does not render documents admissible, without further inquiry simply because they are attached to the petition filed under the Hague Convention. The Court rejected the Petitioner’s argument and held that in any event, had the evidence been admitted, it would not have affected this court's ultimate conclusion in the case.

The Court concluded that respondent was correct as to the legal matter presented. ICARA provides that documents attached to the Hague Convention petition need not be authenticated, but it does not indicate that all such documents are therefore automatically admissible. And, while it could be argued that the emails between the parties would be admissible in any event either as an admission by a party opponent or a hearsay statement admissible under the state of mind exception of Rule 803(3), there were other portions of the email that contained hearsay within hearsay, and the court was not aware of any authority that would admit these second level hearsay statements. Accordingly, the respondent's objection to the documents attached to the verified amended petition was sustained.