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Judicial notice for web sites

Federal Rules of Evidence Rule 201 states that court may take judicial notice of a fact that is “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.” Fed. R. Evid. 201(b).

This court has stated that “as a general matter, websites and their contents may be proper
subjects for judicial notice” provided that the party provides the court with a copy of the relevant
web page. Caldwell v. Caldwell, No. C05-4166, 2006 WL 618511, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 13,

Wang v. Pataki, 396 F. Supp. 2d 446, 458 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (court may take judicial notice
of internet material);

In re Vertex Pharms., Inc., Sec. Lit., 357 F. Supp. 2d 343, 352 n.4 (D. Mass. 2005);
Gentry v. eBay, Inc., 121 Cal. Rptr. 2d 703, 709 (2002) (affirming demurrer in which trial court
took judicial notice of defendant’s website)

Hendrickson v. eBay, Inc., 165 F. Supp. 2d 1082, 1084 (C.D. Cal. 2001) (taking judicial
notice of eBay’s website to determine the nature of its business)

Coremetrics, Inc. v. Atomic, LLC, 370 F. Supp. 2d 1013, 1021 (N.D. Ca 2005) (“[A]s is
evident from AtomicPark’s website (of which the Court takes judicial notice, see Fed. R. Evid. 201),
consumers may contact AtomicPark for information and real-time assistance via the Internet or a toll-
free number.”

Frances Kenny Family Trust v. World Sav. Bank FSB, No. C04-0372, 2005 WL 106792,
at *1 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 19, 2005) (finding content on plaintiffs’ website to be proper matter for
judicial notice)

Renaissance Greeting Cards, Inc. v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., 405 F. Supp. 2d 680, 684
(E.D. Va. 2005) (taking judicial notice that “visitors to the website are
also offered ‘free classic greetings and poetry cards.’”);
Vlahos v. Schroeffel, No. 02-CV-0139, 2006 WL 544444, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 6, 2006)
(taking judicial notice of program description posted on hospital website);

Autism Soc. of Mich. v. Fuller, No. 05-CV-73, 2006 WL 1519966, at *2 (W.D. Mich.
May 26, 2006) (taking judicial notice of definition of autism as set forth at http://www.autism- The contents of these pages are capable of accurate and ready determination by resort
to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.

Judicial Notice of Blogs and Admissibility of Electronically Stored


In a trade secret case, the Defendants attempted to strike the Plaintiffs’ complaint
pursuant to the California Anti-SLAPP statute. The Defendants failed to make a prima
facie showing that the complaint arose from protected activity. World Fin. Group v.
Hbw Ins. & Fin. 2009 Cal. App. LEXIS 553 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. Apr. 16, 2009).

The Defendants on appeal requested judicial notice of blogs, online articles and
websites. This argument and request was made for the first time on appeal. The
Defendants claimed the online material showed the content of the
communications at issue here involve a matter of public interest. Defendants
claimed the Court needed to take judicial notice of the evidence pursuant to
California Evidence Code section 459(a)(2). World Fin. Group, fn 7, 13-14.

California Evidence Code 459(a)(2) states, in relevant part:

The reviewing court shall take judicial notice of :…(2) each matter that the
trial court was required to notice under Section 451 or 453. The reviewing
court may take judicial notice of any matter specified in Section 452. The
reviewing court may take judicial notice of a matter in a tenor different from
that noticed by the trial court.

Judicial notice of documents whose contents are alleged in a


Under the “incorporation by reference” doctrine, documents “whose contents are alleged in
a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the
pleading, may be considered in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.” Branch v. Tunnell,
14 F.3d 449, 454 (9th Cir. 1994), overruled on other grounds,

Galbraith v. County of Santa Clara, 307 F.3d 1119 (9th Cir. 2002); accord Parrino v.
FHP, Inc., 146 F.3d 699, 705-06 (9th Cir. 1998), superceded on other grounds,

Abrego Abrego v. Dow Chemical Co., 443 F.3d 676 (9th Cir. 2006); United States v.
Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003) (“Even if a document is not attached to a complaint, it
may be incorporated by reference into a complaint if the plaintiff refers extensively to the document
or the document forms the basis of the plaintiff's claim.”).
The “incorporation by reference” doctrine extends to such documents in order to prevent
“plaintiffs from surviving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion by deliberately omitting references to documents
upon which their claims are based.” Parrino, 146 F.3d at 706; see also Wietschner v. Monterey
Pasta Co., 294 F. Supp. 2d 1102, 1109 (N.D. Cal. 2003) (“[D]ocuments crucial to the plaintiff’s
claims but not explicitly incorporated in a complaint can be noticed in order to prevent a plaintiff
from surviving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion by deliberately omitting references to documents upon
which their claims are based.”).
The Court pointed out one an error in Defendants’ use of California Evidence Code
459(a)(2): The statute does not compel judicial notice of documents that were NOT
offered in the trial court. World Fin. Group, fn 7, 14. The argument that Defendants’
speech involved a matter of public interest (as evidenced by the online material)
was being advanced for the first time on appeal and had not been presented to the
trial court. Id. This ran counter to the judicial notice status and was denied for
additional reasons.
Judicial Notice was designed so a party does not have to formally present evidence
to prove a fact that is “outside the area of reasonable controversy.” Michael R.
Arkfeld, Arkfeld on Electronic Discovery and Evidence, §8.6(B), citing FED. R.
EVID. 201, Advisory Committee Note.

Examples of judicial notice for electronically stored information include:

Online videos of “The Guy from Boston” on local news channel, other websites
and a blog. Ligotti v. Garofalo, 2008 DNH 123, fn 15, 21-22 (D.N.H. 2008).
Website information from and American Academy of Allergy
Asthma & Immunology in ERISA action. Arkfeld, §8.6(C), citing Wible v. Aetna
375 F. Supp. 2d 956 (C.D.Cal.Jun.20, 2005).
Online meeting minutes from the City's Board of Mayor and Aldermen attached
to an attorney’s affidavit as a public record. Williams v. City of Franklin, 586 F.
Supp. 2d 890, 894 (M.D. Tenn. 2008).
The admissibility of electronically stored information can take many paths in court, from
party admissions on blogs, present sense impressions on Twitter or layered hearsay
on cell phone video sent with an accompanying text message. However, these issues
almost always have to be raised at the trial court and not for the first time on appeal.

Judicial notice
Judicial notice is a rule in the law of evidence that allows a fact to be introduced into evidence if the truth of
fact is so notorious or well known that it cannot be refuted. This is done upon the request of the party seeking to
the fact at issue determined by the court. Matters admitted under judicial notice are accepted without being formally
introduced by a witness or other rule of evidence, and even if one party wishes to lead evidence to the contrary.
Judicial notice is frequently used for the simplest, most obvious common sense facts, such as which day of the week
corresponded to a particular calendar date.
Judicial notice in the Federal Rules of Evidence
In the United States, Article II of the Federal Rules of Evidence ("FRE") addresses judicial notice in federal courts,
and this article is widely copied by U.S. States. FRE 201(b)) permit judges to take judicial notice of two categories
of facts:
1. Those that are "generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the trial court" (e.g. locations of streets
within the court's jurisdiction) or
2. Those that are "capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot
reasonably be questioned" (e.g. the day of the week on a certain date).[1]
The FRE also notes that judicial notice may be permissive or mandatory. If it is permissive, then the court may
choose to take judicial notice of the fact proffered, or may reject the request and require the party to introduce
evidence in support of the point. If it is mandatory, then the court must take judicial notice of the fact proffered.
Although the FRE does not expand upon the kinds of facts that would fall into one category or another, court cases,
however, have determined that courts must take mandatory judicial notice of federal public laws and treaties, state
public laws, and official regulations of both federal and local government agencies.
Judicial notice and the burden of proof
The effect of the court taking judicial notice is different in civil and criminal trials. In a civil trial, the fact taken
notice of is thereby conclusively proved.
In criminal trials, however, the defendant has the right to contest every fact that might tend to incriminate him.
Therefore, the court taking judicial notice would simply allow the jury to make the finding that the court took notice
of, but would not require this outcome, and would not prevent the defense from presenting evidence to rebut the
noticed fact.
Judicial notice in foreign affairs
Legal disputes about foreign affairs are generally settled by judicial notice by obtaining the information directly
the office of the Secretary of State (in the United States) or the Foreign Secretary (in the United Kingdom). For
example, if a litigant in an extradition hearing attempted to argue that Israel was not a sovereign state, a statement
from the Secretary of State that the U.S. recognized Israel as a sovereign state would settle the issue and no evidence
could be led to the contrary.
Recently, Court of Appeals decisions regarding the legal rights of detainees of Guantanamo Bay took judicial notice
of Cuba having no sovereignty over the U.S. naval base in that location despite claims by the United States
government that it was Cuban territory and not subject to the application of United States law.
Federal courts and the courts of most jurisdictions have determined that matters of foreign law are subject to
permissive judicial notice. Official notice
During the prosecution phase of U.S. patent applications, a similar concept to judicial notices are applied by patent
examiners, but the process is referred to as taking "official notice". In a typical patent claim rejection, the examiner
has to present prima facie evidence (usually as a published document) that the subject matter of a rejected claim
known prior to the application for patent by the inventor. However, when the limitation of the claim is so trivial or
well known in the prior art, examiners can take official notice to that fact. Patent applicants are then allowed to
traverse the official notice given by an examiner, in which case the examiner must present an evidentiary document
to prove the fact or limitation is well known.[2]
Historical examples
Abraham Lincoln used judicial notice in the trial of William Armstrong to establish that a claim by a witness to have
used moonlight to see events could not have taken place since there was no visible moon that evening. This led to
Armstrong's acquittal.
In the 1981 case of Mel Mermelstein v. Institute for Historical Review, the Superior Court of Los Angeles County
took judicial notice of the fact that "Jews were gassed to death at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland
during the summer of 1944".[3]
[1] http:/ / federalevidence. com/ rules-of-evidence#Rule201
[2] USPTO MPEP 2144.03 (http:/ / www. uspto. gov/ web/ offices/ pac/ mpep/ documents/ 2100_2144_03. htm)
[3] "California Judge Rules Holocaust Did Happen" (http:/ / www. nytimes. com/ 1981/ 10/ 10/ us/ california-judge-rules-holocaust-did-happen.
html). The New York Times. Associated Press: p. A26. October 10, 1981. . Retrieved November 20, 2010.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law:

Judicial Notice

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This entry contains information applicable to United States law only.

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,
state, and international law. Legislatures also maintain statutes that give courts the
power to recognize certain facts in specific situations. For example, in Idaho any
document affixed with the official seal of the state public utilities commission must be
judicially noticed by all courts (Idaho Code § 61-209 [1996]). In Hawaii, when a
commercial vehicle is cited for violating vehicle equipment regulations, a trial court must
take judicial notice of the driver's subordinate position if the driver works for a company
that owns the vehicle (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 291-37 [1995]).

The danger of judicial notice is that, if abused, it can deprive the fact finder of the
opportunity to decide a contestable fact in a case. In Walker v. Halliburton Services, 654
So. 2d 365 (La. App. 1995), Johnny Walker fell from a tank truck approximately ten feet
to a concrete floor. Walker sought workers' compensation benefits for his injuries, and
his claim was denied by the Office of Workers' Compensation.

At the application hearing, the hearing officer stated that it was her experience that a
soft-tissue injury heals in six weeks. She then took judicial notice of the fact that a soft-
tissue injury heals in six weeks — preventing Walker from contesting that proposition —
and disallowed Walker's claim. On appeal the Louisiana Court of Appeal, Third Circuit,
reversed the decision and ordered the payment of workers' compensation benefits.
According to the court, it was a clear error of law for the hearing officer to take judicial
notice of such intricate medical knowledge.

From Florida

December, 2010 Volume 84, No. 10

Judicial Notice on Appeal: A History Lesson in Recent Trends

by Dorothy F. Easley

Page 45

Judicial notice is defined in one dictionary as “the authority of a judge to

accept as facts certain matters which are of common knowledge from
sources that guarantee accuracy or are a matter of official record, without
the need for evidence establishing the fact.”1 As appellate courts around
the country are starting to amend their appellate rules to specifically
address judicial notice, the issue of judicial notice on appeal remains
important. This article builds on a 2006 article on judicial notice2 to look
at the most current trends and suggests that our appellate rules should be
amended to reduce confusion and to promote certainty over what can and
should be the subject of a judicial notice request.

The Quandary: To “Notice” or Not to “Notice”

Judicial notice of a fact takes away the need for the parties to prove that
fact in court. Appellate courts, however, are not fact-finding tribunals;
they are reviewing bodies that evaluate and correct harmful errors made
in lower courts, where the litigant’s counsel lodged a contemporaneous
and specific objection and argument. For this reason, preservation of a
“frozen appellate record” — the facts and issues that relate to a case that
must be first presented to the judge or jury through briefing, testimony,
or tangible evidence — is one of the most fundamental principles of
appellate practice. Consistent with this requirement of preservation is the
basic rule that evidence cannot be presented for the first time on appeal.

At the same time, if each fact in a case had to be proven through formal
presentation, the simplest case would take weeks to complete. To reduce
burdens on the judicial system, all legislatures nationwide have approved
statutes and codes, and courts have approved court rules that allow a
court — at all levels — to recognize facts that constitute common
knowledge without requiring proof from the parties. Such rules can
improve court efficiency at the trial level and, at the appellate level,
improve efficiency and the likelihood of a decision on the merits.

Judicial notice allows appellate courts to resolve disputes without time-

consuming remands due to procedural defects having no effect on the
outcome. Those seeking to repair procedural defects or plug holes in
deficient records can reasonably request that an appellate court take
judicial notice. But it is a misuse of judicial notice to allow clever attempts
to supplement the record with material evidence that plainly should have
been first presented below. Whether judicial notice is viewed as a weapon
or a means of correcting procedural defects, practitioners must be aware
of the uses and limitations of that part of the record that is “unfrozen.”

Historical Patterns to Predict Future Trends

Our courts have historically considered the writings and studies of social
science experts on legislative facts, with or without introduction into the
record below, and with or without consideration by the trial court.3
Supreme Court justices have often used research from the social sciences
and other nonlegal material to establish or criticize a rule of law.4 For an
appellate advocate, it would be a strategic oversight to fail to consider
presenting to an appellate court important information that could be the
subject of judicial notice.

In his brief in support of a state law limiting work hours for women, Louis
Brandeis demonstrated in Muller v. Oregon, 208 U.S. 412 (1908), the
importance of using extra-legal sources, advancing medical and social
science research that documented the debilitating effect of working long
hours on women.5 He used that substantial body of research before the
U.S. Supreme Court to defend Oregon’s limits on the number of hours
women could work.6

Social and scientific studies have remained significant to decisions in

major constitutional cases to avoid unjust results.7 The nation’s highest
court has frequently employed judicial notice to ensure that its decisions
were connected to the society in which we operate. In Lee v. Weisman,
505 U.S. 577, 593-94 (1992), in considering whether a prayer at
graduation violated the First Amendment, the Supreme Court relied on
psychological studies supporting the “common assumption that
adolescents are often susceptible to pressure from their peers towards
conformity and that influence is strongest in matters of social
convention.” Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy relied on three
psychological studies for support.8

In United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 907-08, 912-14 & nn.6, 9 & 11
(1984), Justice White cited sociological field research to support a good
faith exception to the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule. In Mississippi
University for Women v. Hogan, 458 U.S. 718, 738-39 (1982), Justice
O’Connor cited sociological surveys to establish the unconstitutionality of
a state statute that excluded males from enrolling in state-supported
nursing school. In Ballew v. Georgia, 435 U.S. 223, 232-35 nn.10-14
(1978), Justice Blackmun cited psychological studies to establish the
unconstitutionality of five-member juries in state criminal trials. In United
States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543, 552-54 (1976), Justice Powell
cited epidemiological and demographic research to support the
constitutionality of fixed checkpoint stops of vehicles at borders. And in
Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton, 413 U.S. 49, 58-60 nn.8-9 (1973), Chief
Justice Burger cited behavioral studies to support the constitutionality of a
state obscenity statute.

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 493-94 (1954), is another

illustration of the importance of judicial notice. In Brown, the Court relied
on sociological research presented by then-appellate advocate and later-
Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to conclude that public school
racial segregation generated “a feeling of inferiority” that might affect
the “hearts and minds” of African-American school children “in a way
unlikely ever to be undone.”9
These cases confirm that throughout history, the higher courts have not
confined themselves to the record of evidence presented to the trial court.
The courts consider additional sources referred to in appellate briefs or
conduct their own independent research to arrive at the best decisions on
the merits.10

There is, however, a danger of judicial notice: If abused, it can promote

bias, unscientific prejudice, and deprive the fact finder of the opportunity
to decide for itself a contestable fact in a case. History teaches that
judicial notice is not always properly advanced or used. For example,
courts have taken judicial notice of materials that merely reinforced
existing prejudices.11 In other cases, courts have relied on judicial notice
to reject evidence and factual positions advanced by the parties.12

National Trends

Despite these dangers, some have argued that it is not helpful to

appellate decisionmaking to limit facts available to judges for their
deliberation,13 and have asserted that “[n]o judge can think about law,
policy, or discretion without using extra-record facts.”14 Indeed, because
appellate decisions often employ not just adherence to legal authority, but
higher-level, policy-based reasoning, restricting review to merely the
traditional legal authorities in cases and statutes can be insufficient or,
worse, incomplete and in a vacuum.15

• Federal Rules — The federal decisions and Federal Rules of Evidence

have embraced that reality. In 1975, the drafters of Federal Rule of
Evidence 201 drew from Professor Kenneth Davis’ writings.16 Rule 201,
which established the standards for judicial notice, incorporated the
distinction between legislative facts — those that concerned questions of
law and policy — and adjudicative facts — those facts of the particular

The Advisory Committee Note to Rule 201 specifically acknowledges the

rule’s intentional distinction between adjudicative facts — facts outside
the record — and legislative facts, following Professor Davis.18 Under Rule
201, a “court may take judicial notice, whether requested or not,” and a
court’s consideration of adjudicative facts outside of the record is subject
to the restrictions that the rules for judicial notice impose.19
Rule 201(b) provides 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 court must take
judicial notice “if requested by a party and provided with the necessary
information.”20 Either party is “entitled upon timely request to an
opportunity to be heard as to the propriety of taking judicial notice and
the tenor of the matter noticed.”21 Even though appellate courts are
reluctant to infringe on the trial court’s fact-finding role, Federal Rule of
Evidence 201(f) expressly sets forth that facts can be noticed at any stage
of the proceeding, which has been held to include appeal.22

• Federal Trends — Judicial notice at the appellate level is most commonly

used to correct procedural defects and clarify post-judgment
developments, such as subsequently entered orders or amendments in the
lower tribunal during the pendency of appeal.23 But judicial notice on
appeal has also been substantive. In United States v. Pozsgai, 999 F.2d
719, 730-31 (3d Cir. 1993), for example, the Army Corps of Engineers’
jurisdiction turned on whether a swamp was adjacent to waters used
historically in interstate commerce. To establish jurisdiction, the
government persuaded the appellate court to take judicial notice of the
adjacent “[c]anal’s historic significance as an interstate commerce

• State Trends — All states, including Florida, have statutes that are
virtually identical to Fed. R. of Evid. 201. There is a strong policy that
appellate courts not render decisions contrary to facts and law undisputed
and incontrovertible. As a result, Florida appellate courts will judicially
notice matters for the first time on appeal, often without even referencing
the evidence code.25 There is no question that post-evidence code,
appellate courts recognize their power to judicially notice adjudicative
facts on appeal, as well as the power to judicially notice law and judicial

Other states’ legislatures also maintain statutes that give courts the
power to recognize certain facts in specific situations. In Idaho, for
example, any document affixed with the official seal of the state’s Public
Utilities Commission must be judicially noticed by all courts.27 In Hawaii,
when a commercial vehicle is cited for violating vehicle equipment
regulations, a trial court must take judicial notice of the driver’s
subordinate position if the driver works for a company that owns the

Like other courts, Florida’s Supreme Court and appellate courts have also
refused to notice matters for the first time on appeal, precisely because
they were not presented in the trial court.29 Judicial notice on appeal is
subject to the reviewing court’s discretion. It is, therefore, clear that
using judicial notice to introduce material evidence on appeal that was not
submitted to the trial courts is risky, and practitioners proceed at their
own peril. This point was highlighted in Brim v. State, 779 So. 2d 427, 430
(Fla. 2d DCA 2000), in which Judge Altenbernd expressed his concern that
taking judicial notice of the scientific literature regarding DNA testing did
not permit full Supreme Court review of a district court’s work and
concluded that it was “inappropriate for the court to evaluate or
determine the scientific acceptability of such principles and procedures by
examining extra-record, nonlegal materials.”

Take also, for example, Brosterhous v. State Bar of California, 906 P.2d
1242 (1995), in which the State Bar of California asked the California
Supreme Court to take judicial notice of eight cartons of materials
comprising the record of an arbitration to bolster its res judicata
argument, even though the state bar had failed to submit any of those
materials to the trial or lower appellate courts. The California Supreme
Court recognized its power to take judicial notice of matters outside the
record, but it then refused to exercise that power.

Although some parties and judges may fear the misuse of nonlegal
information introduced at the appellate level, there is no empirical
evidence or logical reason to believe that judicial decisions are uniformly
better when they ignore available, quality, authoritative information and
fail to consider the real world implications of a legal rule.30 Extra-record
studies educate the courts on the specific disputes in which the studies
are introduced.31 When the issue presented to the higher court is not
merely the rights of the parties in that specific case, but, as a practical
matter, the rights of others who may be significantly affected by the
decision that the court adopts, should courts really be limited to only that
case-specific evidence that the parties have chosen to present below?32
An Appellate Rule Addressing Judicial Notice on Appeal

Applying the judicial notice provisions of Florida’s evidence code in the

appellate forum is not always a simple matter. The cases suggest that one
of the biggest limitations on judicial notice seems to be a concern rooted
in procedure. F.S. §90.204(1) (2010) provides that before any court takes
judicial notice of an adjudicative fact, it shall afford each party reasonable
opportunity to present information relevant to the propriety of taking
judicial notice and the nature of the matter noticed. Judicial notice of
undisputed and incontrovertible facts in criminal or other types of appeal,
for example, may raise a host of due process concerns that civil appeals
may not present.

A recent decision out of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals illustrates this
point. In American Prairie Const. Co. v. Hoich, 560 F.3d 780, 796-98 (8th
Cir. 2009), the Eighth Circuit held that the trial court erred in taking
judicial notice sua sponte that an accountant was an agent, which had
allowed the accountant to bind the defendant to a $2.5 million settlement

After trial, the district court conducted independent [I]nternet research,

located Hoich’s book, From the Ground Up, and referenced it for the first
time in the district court’s opinion. The court took judicial notice of the
book and described some of the contents . . . . The court used this
information to support its finding that Jandrain was Hoich’s agent.33

In that case, the Eighth Circuit emphasized that because there was no
document expressly stating that the accountant was an agent, the trial
court’s post-trial judicial notice violated rules of evidence, including
hearsay rules, and did not afford the parties an opportunity to respond.34

A recent case out of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals also underscores
the due process concerns raised by judicial notice. In Singh v. Mukasey,
553 F.3d 207 (2d Cir. 2009), the Second Circuit noted that an immigration
judge erred in taking judicial notice without providing an opportunity to
rebut the officially noticed fact.35 The appellate court acknowledged that
the Federal Rules of Evidence did not apply to immigration removal
proceedings and to the immigration judge’s “administrative notice of the
existence of adult strip clubs in Buffalo,” but concluded that the Fifth
Amendment due process standard did apply and that it had been
violated.36 Due process required an “opportunity to rebut such facts.”37

Both Singh and American Prairie Const. Co. highlight that a level of
process is due on the issue of judicial notice. Rule 201(e) addresses this
issue when the Federal Rules of Evidence apply: “A party is entitled upon
timely request to an opportunity to be heard as to the propriety of taking
judicial notice and the tenor of the matter noticed. In the absence of prior
notification, the request may be made after judicial notice has been

Brown v. Board of Education and other appellate decisions reflect that

information judicially noticed has successfully changed the outcome. But it
does not necessarily follow that indisputable facts and law should be
noticed for the first time on appeal. Perhaps the solution is to codify an
appellate rule clarifying judicial notice provisions in the appellate context.


The matters that can be noticed, as set forth in F.S. §§90.201 and 90.202,
appropriately define the subjects proper for judicial notice at the trial
level.38 It makes little sense to have §§90.201 and 90.202 only apply at
the trial level, while the appellate courts fashion standards on a case-by-
case basis, perpetuating uncertainty over what can be noticed. Sections
90.201 and 90.202 should also expressly apply at the appellate levels, and
appellate litigants should be subject to their limits. Section 90.207
strongly suggests that judicial notice on appeal is proper and that the
evidence code’s judicial notice provisions apply to appellate, and not just
trial, courts: “[T]he failure or refusal of a court to take judicial notice of a
matter does not preclude a court from taking judicial notice of the matter
in subsequent proceedings.” This also makes sense because §§90.203 and
90.204, which set forth the procedures for a court to take judicial notice,
do not limit themselves to trial courts. To that end, a recent amendment in
California’s appellate rules would allow judicial notice and taking of
evidence in the appellate courts, with much of the protection for both
sides turning on notice and opportunity to be heard. Florida should
consider a similar appellate rule as well.39

Because judicial notice on appeal is a vital adjudicative device for

advancing appellate decisions on the merits, its application should be
clarified in Florida in the same way that it has been under federal rules,
and in the same way that other states, such as California, have moved to
clarify their appellate rules. This goal is consistent with Florida appellate
jurisprudence, because an appellate rule of judicial notice would assist the
appellate courts in rendering decisions fully on the merits. Appellate rules
on judicial notice balance these goals with the strong policies of appellate
preservation and review.

1 Dictionary,


2 Dorothy F. Easley, Judicial Notice on Appeal: What’s All the Fuss?, 80 Fla.
Bar J. 40 (May 2006).

3 See, e.g., Dunagin v. City of Oxford, Miss., 718 F.2d 738 (5th Cir. 1983).

4 Ellie Margolis, Beyond Brandeis: Exploring the Uses of Non-legal

Materials in Appellate Briefs, 34 U.S.F. L. Rev. 197, 198 (2000).

5 Margolis, Beyond Brandeis, 34 U.S.F. L. Rev. at 203.

6 See Muller, 208 U.S. at 416.

7 See John Monahan & Laurens Walker, Social Authority: Obtaining,

Evaluating, and Establishing Social Science in Law, 134 U. Pa. L. Rev. 477
8 Lee, 505 U.S. at 593-95.

9 Brown, 347 U.S. at 494-95 & n.11.

10 See Robert Keeton, Legislative Facts and Similar Things: Deciding

Disputed Premise Facts, 73 Minn. L. Rev. 1, 31 (1988).

11 See, e.g., Wolfe v. Ga. Ry. & Elec. Co., 58 S.E. 899, 901 (1907)
(judicially noticing “racial inferiority” as a matter of “common

12 Walker v. Halliburton Services, 654 So. 2d 365, 367-68 (La. App. 1995).

13 See Kenneth Culp Davis, Judicial Notice, 55 Colum. L. Rev. 945, 952
(1955) (providing a thorough analysis of the judicial notice issue).

14 Kenneth Culp Davis, Judicial, Legislative, and Administrative

Lawmaking: A Proposed Research Service for the Supreme Court, 71 Minn.
L. Rev. 1, 7 (1986).

15 See Zachary Mangello, Sociological Materials in Vermont Constitutional

Interpretation, 32 Vt. L. Rev. 607, 609-11 (2008).

16 See Advisory Committee’s Note on Fed. R. Evid. 201(a).

17 Id. (recognizing Professor Davis’ distinction).

18 See Advisory Committee Note to Fed. R. Evid. 201(a); see also Margaret
Z. Johns, Teaching Appellate Advocacy: Supplementing the Pro Se Record
with a Brandeis Brief, Ass’n Am. L. Schools Conf. on Clinical Legal Educ.
(May 21, 2002), available at

19 Fed. R. Evid. 201(a) and Advisory Committee Note.

20 Fed. R. Evid. 201(d).

21 Fed. R. Evid. 201(e).

22 See, e.g., In re Indian Palms Assocs., 61 F.3d 197, 205-206 (3d Cir.

23 See, e.g., Ieradi v. Mylan Labs., Inc., 230 F.3d 594, 597 (3d Cir. 2000)
(taking judicial notice in securities fraud case that defendant had entered
into $147 million settlement with FTC while the case was on appeal).

24 Pozsgai, 999 F.2d at 731-72 (citing “Robert McCullough & Walter

Leuba, The Pennsylvania Main Line Canal (1960), and C.P. Yoder, Delaware
Canal Journal (1972), two history books which discuss the [c]anal’s nearly
100-year history as a shipping route for coal and other commodities” to
prove the adjacent Pennsylvania Canal leading to the Delaware River had
been historically used in interstate commerce).

25 Reese v. Levin, 123 So. 809 (Fla. 1929) (taking notice of unstable or
fluctuating real estate values at the time a particular contract was made);
see also Peterson v. Paoli, 44 So. 2d 639 (Fla. 1950) (taking notice of
“applicable and controlling statute of the State of New York, even though
such statute was overlooked in the proceedings in the court below”).
26 See, e.g., England v. England, 520 So. 2d 699, 702 (Fla. 4th D.C.A.
1988) (“While there was no actuarial evidence presented below, we can
take judicial notice of the fact that the value of $75 today is far less than
what it was in 1967.”); but see Hill v. State, 471 So. 2d 567 (Fla. 1st D.C.A.
1985) (“Counsel for appellee should not have to be told that the appellate
courts do not create records, nor do statements of counsel serve to create
a record.”).

27 Idaho Code Ann. §61-209 (2009) (“All courts shall take judicial notice of
said seal”).

28 Haw. Rev. Stat. §291-37.

29 See, e.g., In re Adoption of Freeman, 90 So. 2d 109 (Fla. 1956);

Kostecos v. Johnson, 85 So. 2d 594 (Fla. 1956).

30 See Michael Saks, Judicial Attention to the Way the World Works, 75
Iowa L. Rev. 1011, 1015 (1990) (suggesting research used in formulating a
rule of law has same kind of future-oriented analogizing of case precedent
that we use in “IRAC” analysis).

31 Id.

32 Fed. Prac. & Proc. Evid. §5102 (citing Kenneth Karst, Legislative Facts
in Constitutional Litigation, 1960 Sup. Ct. Rev. 75, 109).

33 American Prairie Const. Co., 560 F.3d at 796-97 (citations omitted).

34 Id. at 796-98.

35 Singh, 553 F.3d at 214, n.2.

36 Id.

37 Id. at 210-14, n.2.

38 See Fla. Stat. §90.201 (2010) (setting forth those matters which must
be judicially noticed); §90.203 (providing for compulsory judicial notice
upon request); §90.204 (providing for a determination of the propriety of
judicial notice and nature of matter noticed).

39 See Cal. R. Ct. 8.252.

Dorothy F. Easley earned her J.D., with honors, in 1994 from the University
of Miami School of Law and her M.S., with highest honors, in 1986 from
SUNY/CESF. She is board certified in appellate practice, managing partner
of Easley Appellate Practice, PLLC, specializing in the appellate
substantive areas of business, family, health, intellectual property, and
criminal law, and currently serves as Appellate Practice Section immediate
past chair, 2010-11.

This column is submitted on behalf of the Appellate Practice Section,

Raoul G. Cantero III, chair, Kristin A. Norse, editor, and Brandon Christian,
assistant editor.

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