Chapter 2 - §13. Judicial notice

JurisdictionUnited States

§13. Judicial notice

Judicial notice is a substitute for formal proof of a matter by evidence. People v. Rowland (1992) 4 Cal.4th 238, 268 n.6. When a matter is judicially noticed, it is treated as true for purposes of proof. People v. Moore (5th Dist.1997) 59 Cal. App.4th 168, 185. The matters that can be judicially noticed are limited to those matters—legal or factual—that are reasonably beyond dispute. Post v. Prati (2d Dist.1979) 90 Cal.App.3d 626, 633; see Tenet Healthsystem Desert, Inc. v. Blue Cross of Cal. (4th Dist.2016) 245 Cal.App.4th 821, 835. Just because a matter can be judicially noticed, however, does not make the matter admissible. As with other evidence, a matter that is judicially noticed must still be relevant to the case and be able to withstand scrutiny under Evid. C. §352. See Rowland, 4 Cal.4th at 268 n.6; Mireskandari v. Gallagher (4th Dist.2020) 59 Cal.App.5th 346, 359 n.11; Weimer v. Nationstar Mortg., LLC (3d Dist.2020) 47 Cal.App.5th 341, 348 n.3 (pet. granted 7-22-20; No. S262024); see, e.g., Voris v. Lampert (2019) 7 Cal.5th 1141, 1147 n.5 (court denied request for judicial notice of irrelevant criminal indictment); Hiona v. Superior Ct. (1st Dist.2020) 48 Cal.App.5th 866, 871 n.5 (court denied request for judicial notice of irrelevant grant-agreement packet excerpt between city housing department and housing clinic); Severson & Werson, P.C. v. Sepehry-Fard (6th Dist.2019) 37 Cal.App.5th 938, 952 n.13 (court denied request for judicial notice of irrelevant order granting preemptory challenge against inferior-court judge). See "Relevance," ch. 1, §1 et seq.; "Discretionary Exclusion Under Evid. C. §352," ch. 6, §1 et seq. Additionally, although a court may take judicial notice of a recorded deed or similar document, it cannot take judicial notice of factual matters stated in the document. See "Effect of taking judicial notice of a document," ch. 2, §13.2.

This section discusses judicial notice by the trial court. However, judicial notice by a reviewing court is generally taken in the same manner and under the same requirements as discussed below. See Evid. C. §459. There are two exceptions to this general rule. The first is that the reviewing court must take judicial notice of any matter properly noticed by the trial court. Evid. C. §459(a); see Yvanova v. New Century Mortg. Corp. (2016) 62 Cal.4th 919, 924 n.1; San Francisco CDCLLC v. Webcor Constr. L.P. (1st Dist.2021) 62 Cal.App.5th 266, 281 n.5; see also Willis v. City of Carlsbad (4th Dist.2020) 48 Cal.App.5th 1104, 1111 n.3 (generally, reviewing court does not take judicial notice of evidence not presented to trial court). The second is that if a matter of substantial consequence was already noticed by the trial court, the reviewing court is not required to give the parties a reasonable opportunity to present information or meet information as required by Evid. C. §455. See Evid. C. §459(c). If the matter was not noticed by the trial court, however, the reviewing court must comply with the requirements of Evid. C. §455. See Evid. C. §459(c), (d). For a discussion of these requirements, see "Matter is of substantial consequence," ch. 2, §13.4.1.

§13.1. Matters subject to judicial notice.

1. Mandatory judicial notice. Evid. C. §451 requires that the court take judicial notice of the matters listed in the statute regardless of whether a specific request is made by a party. The following matters must be judicially noticed under Evid. C. §451:

(1) California authority.

(a) California law. Judicial notice must be taken of the decisional, constitutional, and statutory law of California. Evid. C. §451(a); e.g., Kasem v. Dion-Kindem (2d Dist.2014) 230 Cal.App.4th 1395, 1400-01 (trial court erred in refusing to take judicial notice of federal and state statutes); see, e.g., Inc. v. DoubleVerify Inc. (2019) 7 Cal.5th 133, 150 n.6 (judicial notice taken of certain court orders and legislative-history materials); Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods, Inc. v. Salinas Un. High Sch. Dist. (6th Dist.2019) 34 Cal.App.5th 775, 797 n.13 (judicial notice taken of sections of county code ordinance). The court may also take judicial notice of matters underlying California law. See Gund v. County of Trinity (3d Dist.2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 185, 199 (judicial notice taken of California Law Revision Commission report), aff'd, (2020) 10 Cal.5th 503. However, the court generally cannot take judicial notice of an unpublished decision. Hernandez v. Restoration Hardware, Inc. (2018) 4 Cal.5th 260, 269 n.2; see CRC 8.1115(a).

(b) Charters. Judicial notice must be taken of the provisions of charters adopted under the applicable sections of the California Constitution. Evid. C. §451(a).

(c) California regulations. Judicial notice must be taken of the regulations adopted or repealed by California agencies and properly filed with the Secretary of State. Evid. C. §451(b).

(d) Court rules. Judicial notice must be taken of the court rules of practice and procedure that have been adopted by the California Judicial Council. Evid. C. §451(c).

(e) State Bar rules. Judicial notice must be taken of the rules of professional conduct adopted for the State Bar of California. Evid. C. §451(c).

(2) Federal authority.

(a) Federal law. Judicial notice must be taken of the decisional, constitutional, and statutory law of the United States. Evid. C. §451(a).

(b) Federal regulations. Judicial notice must be taken of the documents published in the Federal Register. Evid. C. §451(b); see 44 U.S.C. §1507.

(c) Court rules. Judicial notice must be taken of the rules of pleading, practice, and procedure prescribed by the U.S. Supreme Court, such as the Rules of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Admiralty Rules, the Rules of the Court of Claims, the Rules of the Customs Court, and the General Orders and Forms in Bankruptcy. Evid. C. §451(d).

(3) Words, phrases & legal expressions. Judicial notice must be taken of the true significance of all English words and phrases and of all legal expressions. Evid. C. §451(e); see, e.g., Lincoln Unified Sch. Dist. v. Superior Ct. (3d Dist.2020) 45 Cal.App.5th 1079, 1092 (judicial notice taken of definitions in place when statutes were enacted).

(4) Universally known facts. Judicial notice must be taken of indisputable and universally known facts and propositions. Evid. C. §451(f). A fact is "universally known" if it is known among persons of reasonable and average intelligence and knowledge. 7 Cal. Law Revision Comm'n Rep. (1965) pp. 1065-66; see, e.g., People v. Gonzales (2011) 52 Cal.4th 254, 322-23 (not universally known that semiautomatic weapon cannot be easily rendered fully automatic); Oakes v. Progressive Transportation Servs., Inc. (2d Dist.2021) 71 Cal.App.5th 486, 495 (workers' compensation is a matter of common knowledge in California); Malek Media Grp. LLC v. AXQG Corp. (2d Dist.2020) 58 Cal. App.5th 817, 825 (#MeToo movement and the phrase "a woman alleging sexual harassment must be believed" are not facts universally known; social movements do not have defined boundaries and scope, meaning, and influence are subjects of debate); People v. Beaty (5th Dist.2010) 181 Cal.App.4th 644, 657 (universally known that recovery from addiction is lifelong process); People v. McDonald (1st Dist.2006) 137 Cal.App.4th 521, 538 (universally known that unpleasant consequences would follow from permitting people to urinate in public at will); People v. Coulon (3d Dist.1969) 273 Cal.App.2d 148, 154-55 (not universally known that "hippies" live in single communal establishment).

Federal Comparison
FRE 201 provides that the matters subject to judicial notice are those not subject to reasonable dispute because they are either (1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the court or (2) capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned. FRE 201(b). The provisions of the Federal Rules on judicial notice are more restrictive than Evid. C. §451, including the fact that FRE 201 requires a party to ask the court to take mandatory judicial notice. See FRE 201(c)(2). By contrast, Evid. C. §451 confers on the court a direct obligation to take judicial notice sua sponte on matters delineated in the statute regardless of a party's request. The other statutes and rules relating to judicial notice in the California Evidence Code and the Federal Rules are relatively similar (e.g., FRE 201(b) is analogous to Evid. C. §§451 and 452).

2. Permissive judicial notice. Evid. C. §452 permits, but does not require, the court to take judicial notice of the matters listed in the statute when not requested to do so. If a party makes a request that complies with Evid. C. §453, the court must take judicial notice of the matters listed in Evid. C. §452. The following matters may be judicially noticed under Evid. C. §452:

(1) Laws of sister states. Judicial notice may be taken of the decisional, constitutional, and...

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