Governmental Documents

AuthorAshley S. Lipson
chApter 21
Governmental Documents
§21.100 Introduction
§21.200 Basic Foundation for Governmental Documents
§21.300 Opposition Checklist
§21.400 Specific Documents
§21.401 Accident Reports
§21.401(a) Aircraft Accident Reports
§21.401(b) Automobile Accident Reports
§21.401(c) Consumer Products Accident Reports
§21.401(d) Environmental Reports
§21.401(e) Non-Existence of Accident Reports
§21.402 Automotive and Vehicular Records
§21.403 Autopsy Reports
§21.404 Birth Certificates
§21.404(a) Marriage Certificates
§21.405 Booklets
§21.406 Breathalyzer Maintenance Records
§21.407 Citations and Traffic Tickets
§21.408 Codes
§21.409 Death Certificates
§21.410 DNA Matching Test Results
§21.411 E-Mail
§21.412 Foreign Public Documents
§21.413 Investigative Reports
§21.413(a) Internal Investigative Reports
§21.413(b) Investigator’s Interview Notes
21-257 Governmental Documents
§21.414 Lie Detector Results
§21.415 Maps
§21.416 Medical Reports and Findings
§21.417 MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Test Results
§21.418 Pamphlets
§21.419 Polygraph Test Results
§21.420 Reprimands
§21.421 Safety Standards and Codes
§21.422 Scientific Reports
§21.423 Thermographic Test Results
§21.424 Traffic Tickets
§21.425 Weather Reports
§21.426 Administrative Agency Reports and Orders
§21.427 Arrest and Incarceration Records
§21.428 Tax Assessments
§21.429 Summaries
§21.430 Foreign Official Documents
§21.431 Laboratory Reports
§21.432 Electronic Monitoring Device Records
§21.433 Mayoral Orders
§21.434 Warning Notices and Letters
§21.435 Court-Ordered Reports, Findings and Evaluations
§21.436 Public Statistics
§21.437 Official Stamps
§21.100 Is It Admissible? 21-258
1 Gross v. King David Bistro, Inc., 84 F.Supp.2d 675 (D.Md. 2000). Admissibility of government reports under official
documents hearsay exception is assumed because of general reliability of public agencies in conducting their inves-
tigations and absence of a motive other than informing the public; thus, the party opposing admission bears burden
of showing that report is unreliable. Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Reilly, 84 F.Supp.2d 180 (D.Mass. 2000). Generally,
government reports are admissible as government documents.
Heimert v. Heimert, 101 So.3d 181 (Miss.App., 2012). In a divorce action involving allegations of attempted rape and
strangulation, even though police reports, if offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted are hearsay
(and the information within them may be based on hearsay), nevertheless, the reports may be admissible under the
hearsay exception for records, reports, statements, or data compilations of public offices or agencies.
2 Larsen v. Decker, 995 P.2d 281 (Ariz.App. 2000). In action seeking damages for injuries sustained in auto accident,
trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to admit (under hearsay exception for public records and reports)
a Social Security Administration report finding that plaintiff was permanently disabled after subject accident; report
was not sufficiently reliable. Plaintiff was apparently sole source of information provided to Agency and no medical
expert ever appeared or was cross-examined in Agency proceeding. Moreover, even though generally opinions and
conclusions are within scope of hearsay exception for public records and reports, whether or not they are sufficiently
reliable is for trial court’s discretion. Claussen v. State, Department of Transportation, 750 So.2d 79 (Fla.App. 1999).
Correspondence sent to Department of Transportation was not admissible under public records exception to hearsay
rule because it was based upon information supplied by a source outside of that public agency.
3 Volkswagen of America, Inc. v. Gentry, 564 S.E.2d 733, 254 Ga.App. 888 (Ga.App., 2002). In a wrongful death action
against an automobile manufacturer, a letter written by the director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin-
istration was inadmissible hearsay; the manufacturer failed to explain how or why the letter fell into any exception
covering documents from a legal investigation.
Robinson v. Avis Rent A Car System, Inc., 22 P.3d 818 (Wash.App., 2001). In action charging defendant Avis with
unfair and deceptive trade practices, report issued by National Association of Attorneys General was hearsay and thus
not admissible to show that specific conduct of defendant was unfair or deceptive.
Villanueva v. Zimmer, 431 N.J.Super. 301, 69 A.3d 131 (N.J.Super., 2013). A leading driver brought a personal injury
action against the trailing driver who rear-ended a truck and pushed it into the back of the leading driver’s vehicle. A
determination of the Social Security Administration (SSA) that the leading driver became disabled under SSA rules on
the date of the vehicular collision was not admissible under the public records exception to the hearsay rule; moreover,
a conclusion of a federal administrative law judge or the SSA itself that a person was disabled is not an act performed
by an official or an act, condition, or event observed by the official.
§21.100 Introduction
Our classification scheme for “governmental
documents” includes any writing or document cre-
ated by, or for, some governmental entity, whether
federal, state or local. The witness establishing the
foundation for this type of evidence will often be a
law enforcement officer or other public official. In
addition to “governmental documents,” the writings
are often referred to as “public documents” or “pub-
lic records.”
The writings covered by this chapter are among
the easiest to admit.1 Thus, the biggest danger, from
the proponent’s perspective, is that of laziness.
For, admissibility is by no means automatic.2 A
foundation must be established. And above all, the
proponent should remember that admissibility may
be limited or qualified as it is granted.
Remember, not every writing created by a
governmental agent or agency is admissible. For
a document to qualify as an official document so
as to be admissible, it must have been generated
pursuant to some law or statute requiring that it be
maintained, and, also, it must have been generated
by a person authorized or required to do so.3
There is no generic set of rules governing
notes, letters, summaries, statements, reports and
writings that might accompany or “stand in” for an
official document. One might, however, presume
that such writings would, be subject to the same or

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