How will the Court resolve my case?

This is a question all of my clients involved in Court cases ask me

My answer is this: I cannot tell you. I can give you a good idea of what the Court will do. However, I cannot guarantee what the Court will do.

Most Court cases involve issues of fact, which the Court has to resolve. These factual disputes turn on “creditability”. “Creditability” is the legal term for believable. For example, if the Trial Judge (in a Jury Waived case) finds a witness is not “creditable” this means the Judge did not believe his/her testimony. Keep in mind a Judge or a Jury (if the case is tried to a Jury) can believe everything a witness testifies to, nothing a witness testifies to or part or parts of what a witness testifies to. This rule applies even if the witness’s testimony is uncontested and applies to testimony by experts, e.g., doctors, accounts, appraiser etc.

What about an appeal? Here is the answer: an appellate court – in Massachusetts this would be most like the Massachusetts Appeals Court or in rare cases the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court -- does not hear witnesses. The case is presented to the appellate court on “the record” made below. In a case tied by a Judge (as are all domestic relations cases in Massachusetts) the standard of review for determinations of creditability is “clearly erroneous” under Rule 52, Mass R. Civ. P., (or Mass. R. Dom. Rel. P. in case of a domestic relations case). “…’Where there are two permissible views of the evidence, the fact-finder’s [the Trial Judge’s] choice between them cannot be clearly erroneous.’…” Goodman v. Atwood, 78 Mass. App. Ct. 655, 658 (2011). In essence, if the Trial Judge does not accept the evidence present by one side as creditable, most likely an appellate court will uphold (or “affirm) this part of the Trial Judge’s decision.

In conclusion, an attorney cannot guarantee how a client’s case will be resolved by the Court. Any attorney who tells you otherwise is not being “creditable”!