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Family Law

Family Law News 2018, Issue 2, Volume 40, No. 2

An Evidence Code Primer for Family Law Attorneys Part I: An Overview and GeneraL Approach

Hon. William J. Howatt, Jr. (Retired) and Stephen D. Hamilton

Hon. William J. Howatt was appointed to the El Cajon Municipal Court in 1979 by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. and to the San Diego Superior Court in 1987 by Governor George Deukmejian. In the Superior Court he served as Presiding Judge of the entire Court in 1996 and 1997, on the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, and culminated his career on the bench as Supervising Judge of the Family Law Division. His legal career included over ten years as a Deputy District Attorney for the County of San Diego, including felony trials, the Fraud Division and the Appellate Division. Judge Howatt frequently lectures on Evidence law and has designed a special three-evening Evidence program for family law attorneys. He retired from the Bench in December of 2006. Since retiring, he does arbitrations and mediations with JAMS in San Diego and acts as a privately compensated temporary judge.

Stephen D. Hamilton has been an attorney for 22 years, with a practice devoted almost exclusively to family law for 20 of those years. He has been a Certified Specialist in Family Law since 2004. He is currently a member of the California Family Law Executive Committee, for which he is the Legislation Chair. He is a member of ACFLS and serves on the ACFLS Outreach and Amicus Committees. He is also chairperson of the San Luis Obispo County Family Law Section.

Stephen A. Kolodny, an extremely well-respected family law attorney, recommends that attorneys read the Evidence Code annually and before every trial. At first blush, that comment might appear to be tongue-in-cheek. It is not. It highlights the importance of knowing the Evidence Code as a trial skill. As Stephen has explained, repeated sustained objections often cause insecure lawyers to abandon even good testimony, and cases are sometimes won that way. We have all noticed with alarm how the recent case of People v. Sanchez, 63 Cal. 4th 665 (2016) has shaken family law litigation to its core.

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