Sunday January 21, 2018

LITIGATION: Is Testimony by a Trial Witness Wearing a Veil Fair?

Recently in a Hennepin County family court hearing I encountered a situation where a witness sought to testify while wearing a Muslim cultural headpiece with a face veil called a niqab. I objected to this witness testifying while covering most of her face as it was difficult, if not impossible, for myself or the Court to determine the credibility of the witness while testifying. In addition, my client wanted to see the face of this witness to be able to identify her out in the public.

Suddenly I found myself in a legal argument with opposing counsel pitting constitutional freedoms of expression and religious liberties versus the right of the courts to conduct a fair hearing. The Court recessed for 15 minutes and instructed me to surf my cellphone and research this legal issue to find law in support of my objection. To my surprise, I was unable to find any specific Minnesota law that dealt with this situation. Instead, I argued that procedural rules authorized the judge with the discretion to require removal of the veil prior to testimony.

In my experience, new issues arise in a court proceeding without warning. Parties need competent trial counsel to not only assist them in obtaining the relief they seek, but also to protect their rights. We have extensive trial experience in Minnesota family law courts to not only help parties obtain fair results, but to represent them in protecting their rights.

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