A doctrine of evidence applied by a court that allows the court to recognize and accept the existence of a particular fact commonly known by persons of average intelligence without establishing its existence by admitting evidence in a civil or criminal action.
When a court takes judicial notice of a certain fact, it obviates the need for parties to prove the fact in court. Ordinarily, facts that relate to a case must be presented to the judge or jury through testimony or tangible evidence. However, if each fact in a case had to be proved through such presentation, the simplest case would take weeks to complete. To avoid burdening the judicial system, all legislatures have approved court rules that allow a court to recognize facts that constitute common knowledge without requiring proof from the parties.
On the federal trial court level, judicial notice is recognized in rule 201 of the FEDERAL RULES OF EVIDENCE for U.S. District Courts and Magistrates. Rule 201 provides, in part, that "[a] judicially noticed fact must be one not subject to reasonable dispute in that it is either (1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the trial court or (2) capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned."
Under rule 201 a trial court must take judicial notice of a well-known fact at the request of one of the parties, if the court is provided with information supporting the fact. A court also has the option to take judicial notice at its discretion, without a request from a party.
Rule 201 further provides that a court may take judicial notice at any time during a proceeding. If a party objects to the taking of judicial notice, the court must give that party an opportunity to be heard on the issue. In a civil jury trial, the court must inform the jury that it must accept the judicially noticed facts in the case as conclusively proved. In a criminal trial by jury, the court must instruct the jury "that it may, but is not required to, accept as conclusive any fact judicially noticed." All states have statutes that are virtually identical to rule 201.
The most common judicially noticed facts include the location of streets, buildings, and geographic areas; periods of time; business customs; historical events; and federal...