Legal Memorandum: Admissibility of a Handwritten Document

Issue: What foundation must be laid before a handwritten document is admissible in a Connecticut court?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Handwritten document; Showing of its genuineness; Admissible
Jurisdiction: Connecticut
Cited Cases: 26 Conn. App. 929; 719 A.2d 913; 504 A.2d 480; 50 A. 884; 821 F.2d 887; 79 U.S. 317
Cited Statutes: Conn. R. Evid. 901, 701
Date: 01/01/2006

 Under the Connecticut Rules of Evidence, a document is admissible only upon a showing of its genuineness.  Conn. R. Evid. 901.  Generally, a writing can be authenticated by testimony or circumstantial evidence.  Churchill v. Allessio, 51 Conn. App. 24, 34, 719 A.2d 913, 919 (1998).  It is long established under Connecticut law and the law of other jurisdictions that a non-expert may testify as to a handwritten document’s genuineness, upon a showing that the witness is sufficiently familiar with the handwriting of the person who wrote the document.  See Hamilton v. Smith, 74 Conn. 374, 50 A. 884, 886 (1902); Lyon v. Lyman, 9 Conn. 55, 59 (1831); see also New Canaan Bank & Trust Co. v. Cerretani, No. CV 88-0091832 S (Conn. Super. Ct. Apr. 16, 1991) (trial referee found handwriting to be authentic based on non-expert testimony), aff’d, 26 Conn. App. 929, 600 A.2d 332 (1991); United States v. Calbas, 821 F.2d 887, 893 n.4 (2d Cir. 1987) (handwritten document admissible based on non-expert testimony); accord Fed. R. Evid. 901(b)(2) (a party may establish the authenticity of handwriting based on his or her familiarity with the handwriting, as long as the familiarity was not acquired for the purpose of litigation).  Familiarity may be obtained and proven in various ways, Rogers v. Ritter, 79 U.S. 317, 322 (1870), such that if a court is satisfied that the witness has the degree of knowledge sufficient to enable him or […]

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