Governmental Documents

AuthorAshley S. Lipson
C 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
Is It Admissible? 21-2
§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
§21.500 Disavowed Reports
21-3 Governmental Documents §21.200
§21.100 Introduction
Our classification scheme for “governmental
documents” includes any writing or document
created 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 “public 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,3 and, also, it must have been generated
by a person authorized or required to do so.4
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
similar standards as those considered throughout
the remainder of this chapter.5 Such writings may,
however, serve either to support or cast suspicion
upon the primary governmental document.6
The general strategy for the proponent will be
to “avoid a fuss.” Keep the foundation process so
simple and “matter of fact” that there is nothing to
attack. If a deficiency in the foundation is raised by
the enemy, then go back and fill in the missing bricks.
Rule 803(8) of the Federal Rules of Evidence,
employing the term “Public Records,” provides
as follows:
(8) Public Records. A record or statement
of a public office if:
(A) it sets out:
(i) the office’s activities;
(ii) a matter observed while under a legal
duty to report, but not including, in
a criminal case, a matter observed
by law-enforcement personnel; or
(iii) in a civil case or against the
government in a criminal case,
factual findings from a legally
authorized investigation; and
(B) neither the source of information nor
other circumstances indicate a lack of
Admissibility of tape recording or transcript of
911 emergency call. 3 A.L.R. 5th 784.
Police reports, admissibility under Federal
Business Records Act (Fed. R. Evid. 803).
31 A.L.R. Fed. 457.
§21.200 Basic Foundation for
Governmental Documents
Q. (By Proponent’s Attorney) State your name
for the record.
A. (Witness) My name is Nick Trickson.
Q. State your title and occupation.
A. I’m a governmental employee; I work for the
National Graft Foundation. I’m a records clerk.
Q. (Tendering the writing to the witness)
I’ll show you plaintiff ’s Exhibit 1, which
purports to be 7 an “Annual Graft Report,”
and ask if you can identify it?
A. Yup. It’s one of our annuals all right; from 1990.
Q. As a records clerk, is it part of your normal
duties to keep and maintain such records?
A. Yes.
Q. Was plaintiff’s Exhibit 1 kept in the
ordinary course of business pursuant to the
rules and laws of your agency?
A. Yes.
Q. (Tendering the writing to opposing counsel,
who should be provided with a copy if
requested) I’ll ask that plaintiff ’s Exhibit
1, which I have just handed to opposing
counsel, be entered into evidence as an
official document.
COURT: Any objections?
COURT: Very well, I’ll receive plaintiff’s
Exhibit 1.
As suggested by the above testimony, it is
normally not required that the actual signer of the

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