New GLF Summary Video: Public Records and Hearsay
We dropped a new video summary of an exception to the hearsay rule known as the rule about “Public Records.” It is found in Federal Rule of Evidence 803(8). Please recall that ‘‘Hearsay’’ refers to a statement that is not made while testifying at the current trial or hearing and is offered into evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.
A ‘‘statement’’ is what a person said or wrote but also includes nonverbal conduct, if the person
intended the conduct as an assertion.
The General Rule is that Hearsay statements are not admissible in court.
One exception to this rule says that Public Records are not hearsay.
For a document to be a Public Record under this exception, the record or statement must be from a public office and it must set out the office’s activities; or contain information of a matter observed while under a legal duty to report, but this does not include a matter observed by law-enforcement personnel in a criminal case; or if in a civil case or against the government in a criminal case, factual findings from a legally authorized investigation. An additional requirement is that the opponent of the evidence fails to show that the source of information or other circumstances indicate a lack of trustworthiness.
The Rationale for this rule is to allow into evidence reliable, non-hearsay evidence. In considering whether admissibility extends to conclusions or opinions contained in a public record, the US Supreme Court held “[t]hat portions of investigatory reports otherwise admissible under Rule 803(8)(C) are not inadmissible merely because they state a conclusion or opinion. As long as the conclusion is based on a factual investigation and satisfies the Rule's trustworthiness requirement, it should be admissible along with other portions of the report.” Beech Aircraft Corp. v. Rainey, 488 US 153 (1988)
A Practice Tip is to be aware that Public Records, and any other document or record, may contain hearsay within the document itself. There is a “hearsay within hearsay” rule that applies in such circumstances, which will be covered in a later video.
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