Friday, September 29, 2006

In Re Deffner (Cal. Ct. App. - Sept. 28, 2006)

This one is interesting, on several different levels.

You'll have to read the whole thing, since a summary doesn't exactly do it justice. (That said, the majority opinion is 25 pages, and the dissent is another 11. So be forewarned.) Basically you've got a 30-year marriage in which the wife, pursuant to a "stipulation", received only 20% of the marital assets and no spousal support, even though she was a homemaker with no job.

Which seems weird, as well as inequitable. But it gets weirder, since the attorney for the husband allegedly pretended to be the attorney for the wife in order to obtain the court's approval of this one-sided disposition. Which Justice Sills calls both "identity theft" and fraud, and is very nonplussed about. The majority opinion also contains several interesting, lengthy footnotes -- something that you usually don't see from the California Court of Appeal -- including footnote 1 (regarding his decision not to publish the name of the attorney who engaged in the alleged misconduct) and footnote 4 (about the special adjudicatory nature of family law proceedings and their routine resolution on written records). Finally, Justice Aronson's dissent is also interesting, and basically contends that the wife shouldn't be able to get relief because she was a deliberate wrongdoer in the "fraud" upon the court as well; i.e., in pretending that the husband's attorney was really hers.

Lots of good stuff here. Lots of interesting material in the trial court as well. Worth a look.