Legal Memorandum: Exceptions to Hearsay – Public Records

Issue: Under Nevada law, is a finding by a Nevada hearing officer finding a plaintiff was an innocent victim of crime under Nevada Revised Statutes  217, admissible as evidence?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Official public records; Evidence
Jurisdiction: Federal, Nevada
Cited Cases: 7 F.3d 415; 190 F.3d 238; 692 F.2d 412
Cited Statutes: Nevada Revised Statutes § 51.155; Nevada Revised Statutes 217; Federal Rule of Evidence 803, 803(8), 803(8)(C)
Date: 05/01/2000

           Nevada Revised Statutes § 51.155, like Federal Rule of Evidence 803, allows the introduction of official public records into evidence.  Decisions by administrative law judges typically constitute the classic case of “findings of fact made after an evidentiary hearing” that are admissible under both the state statute and Federal Rule 803(8).  Simply stated, the law of evidence holds that ALJ hearings qualify as “investigations,” the records of which are admissible under Rule 803(8)(C). 

In Zeus Enterprises, Inc. v. Alphin, 190 F.3d 238 (4th Cir. 1999), the court upheld the admission of an ALJ decision affirming an FAA Emergency Order of Suspension of an aircraft’s certificate of airworthiness.  The court rejected the defendant’s contention that, because the ALJ was presiding over an appeal, it did not constitute an “investigation” under Rule 803(8).  Id. at 243.  The court also distinguished its decision in Nipper v. Snipes, 7 F.3d 415, 417 (4th Cir. 1993), which provided that the factual findings of a court are not admissible under Rule 803(8)(C) because of the undue weight they might be given by the jury.  Zeus Enters., 190 F.3d at 242.  Finally, the court noted that the district court’s instructions regarding the ALJ’s decision were appropriate.  The district judge had instructed the jurors that the ALJ’s decision “is not conclusive on the issue you have before you.  But it should be considered along with all the other evidence in the case.”  Id. at 243.    

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