The case of Hammoud v. Hammoud, decided last week by the Michigan Court of Appeals, has drawn national attention for the assertion that the trial court had attempted to pressure the husband to grant the wife an Islamic divorce. The Court of Appeals found the assertion persuasive:
Not only did the trial court exceed the recommended length of spousal support for this marriage, the implication of the trial court’s ruling is that it was indeed attempting to pressure defendant to grant plaintiff an Islamic divorce, despite the trial court’s acknowledgement that it had no authority or jurisdiction over the parties obtaining a religious divorce.
Eugene Volokh, at Volokh Conspiracy, comments:
My view, for the reasons I mentioned as to the Jewish religious divorces, is that the trial court in this case was wrong and the court of appeals was right: Given the Establishment Clause, it should be no business of a secular court to try to pressure someone into performing a religious act.
Given the renewed attention on the importance of accurate court interpretation and translation brought by the recently-adopted ABA Standards on Language Access in Courts (PDF), as well as the recently-argued U.S. Supreme Court case that turns on the meaning of interpretation, this passage from the opinion is also interesting:
On appeal, the document in question was not accompanied by a certified translation from Arabic to English. There is also no indication that the document was “self authenticating” as required for admissibility, nor was there an accompanying attestation regarding the genuineness of the signatures on the document. Given our inability to confirm the content or authenticity of this document, we must rely solely on the trial court’s assessment of the parties’ testimony regarding the document’s terms and authenticity. We give great deference to the trial court’s assessment of the credibility of witnesses.