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Telling the truth - so help me God

Do you swear to tell the truth...?
Do you swear to tell the truth...?
Dara Carlin, M.A.

“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?”

Does it sound like there’s something missing from that question (like a “…so help you God” at the end of it)?

If you were in a courtroom watching someone being sworn in, you’d see something missing too: a Bible.

I haven’t been able to find a specific year when the Bible was officially taken out of American courtrooms but “across the pond” in England, the idea of removing Bibles from the courtroom has only recently taken form. If passed, Britain will soon experience an increase in courtroom dishonesty, perjury, injustice and corruption that will then catch them up to the American family court system. (I have to specify family court here because those are the cases I primarily deal with – I don’t have enough experience to speak to how things operate in other courtrooms, ie: criminal, small claims, etc. – but can speak VOLUMES about family court and CPS proceedings.)

While people have purposefully lied and misrepresented themselves and their actions for years in court (even when oaths were sworn on Bibles) the absence of the holy book has only made it easier for everyone to lie with the barrier between honesty and dishonesty being contingent upon each individual’s ethics and integrity. Regardless of one’s faith, swearing an oath before God with a hand on the Bible feels a whole lot different then promising to be honest with a fellow man.

God makes a difference in offender treatment as well: I once heard about an offender treatment study where success was measured between a group of men who met for their group sessions at an office vs. a group of men who met for their group sessions in a church. Even though the men who had their sessions in the church came from different beliefs, the effect of sitting before a crucifix had a significant impact upon them; apparently it’s harder to be dishonest, bear false witness, lie, cheat and manipulate when it feels like God Almighty is present, watching and listening in too.

Keeping God out of the justice and court system in particular never made much sense to me; yes, His presence doesn’t guarantee truth and honesty – but it certainly increases the chances of it, don’cha think? Which would give you second thought about presenting false information in court: risking the chance of being caught for perjury (RARELY, if ever, enforced) or risking the fate of your eternal soul?

The bottom line is that when God and His work are put to the side, the devil and his work move in. So God and the Bible have been removed from the courtroom and court proceedings (which makes it the devil’s realm) yet people still expect honesty and justice (God’s benefits) – really???

This weekend I spent some time going through a family court document presented by an abuser’s attorney – what a mess… What was fascinating about it is that the attorney submitted this factually incorrect document on the grounds that it contained the truth! Aside from incorrect dates on what was presented as a timeline of events, the events themselves were either hearsay or at best wild guesses, the logic of which (hopefully) came from the abuser. (And I say “hopefully” because it would be all the more disturbing to think that a law professional reached the far-out and funky conclusions that were offered therein.)

As I read page after page of untruths, clearly written to insult and demean the survivor, I wondered if the attorney would have written the same thing or submitted it if he knew it was going to be read by God instead of a judge. A part that made me laugh out loud was when the abuser’s attorney accused the survivor of lying in a document that was a lie in itself – so you have a liar writing how offended he is about lying?! Priceless…

In all the accusations and assertions made against the survivor there wasn’t a single shred of evidence referenced to, nor any exhibits attached to back the truthfulness of the claims up!

A few months ago, a participant in Senator Chun-Oakland’s Legal Interventions Working Group (which meets tomorrow, January 7th from 3:30 – 4:30pm in State Capitol Room 016 in case anyone’s interested) had expressed concerns over attorneys willfully lying in family court and pleadings without consequence. This was a response to that concern from a Honolulu attorney:

The signature of an attorney or party constitutes a certificate by the signer that the signer has read the pleading, motion or other paper; that to the best of the signer’s knowledge, information, and belief formed after reasonable inquiry, it is well grounded in fact … If a pleading, motion or other paper is signed in violation of this rule, the court, upon motion or upon its own initiative, shall impose upon the person who signed it, a represented party, or both, an appropriate sanction which may include an order to pay to the other party or parties the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred…

Although this rule is limited to documents signed in bad faith, the family court has inherent power to sanction parties or attorneys for knowingly false testimony. In addition, attorneys are subject to disciplinary action under Rule 3.3, Hawaii Rules of Professional Conduct, for making a false statement of material fact to a tribunal, failing to disclose a material fact to a tribunal when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client, or offering evidence that the lawyer knows to be false.

I suspect that parties frequently lie in divorce cases, and perhaps in other family court matters, and sometimes their lawyers violate Rule 3.3. It is one thing to suspect, however, and quite another to prove.

I hold absolutely no hope whatsoever that the attorney who authored the pile of lies I read this weekend will be sanctioned for any of it, even when proven wrong with concrete evidence and witness testimony, but I guess it’s nice to know that we already have laws against stuff like that out there?

The icing on the cake was the attorney calling the survivor mentally ill because I thought to myself that mental illness would be the only defense that attorney would have if he had to submit what he did under an oath that ended with “so help me God”.

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