Litigants reasonably wonder why parties, witnesses and even attorneys can sometimes seem to “get away” with shading the truth, fudging the facts and outright “testilying.” I have previously caught opposing parties doctoring personal checking and business records. Recently, an opposing party in one of our cases submitted into evidence “cut and pasted” portions of text messages, while misrepresenting that they constituted a full record of our client’s communications. We will timely bring that to the Court’s attention, including an associated request for hefty sanctions.
A recent published appellate opinion in People vs. Gallardo provides support. It reminds that the Family Courts remain subject to the same rules against offering forged or fraudulent documents and information as any other courts.
There, Mr. Gallardo stopped paying court-ordered child support for nearly a year. At an enforcement hearing, he denied that he was behind on his support payments. Rather, he held up a sheaf of fraudulent papers that he described to the judicial officer as cancelled checks and other documents “proving” that he owed no money. He then handed the documents to his “disbelieving” ex-wife and the Department of Child Support Services attorney.
A few weeks later, Mr. Gallardo re-contacted the DCSS, again providing it with fraudulent documents supposedly supporting his claims.
He was later prosecuted and convicted on two counts of offering forged and fraudulent documents into evidence under Penal Code section 132, and one count of forgery under Penal Code section 470(b). People vs. Gallardo upheld the conviction.
In discussing Gallardo with me, a Superior Court judge friend quoted one of our colleagues who had stated, “we need to put the law back into family law.” He pointed out that other recent cases also talk about the integrity of the process. “It is refreshing,” he concluded. We completely agree, and we hope this trend continues.