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  • August 25, 2009

    Judicial Notice: How It Should Not Be Used

    Contested facts in a dispute between parties to a suit can not be admitted into evidence through judicial notice, as it deprives a party of its right of cross examination. This was the conclusion of the Appellate Court in the case of Palisades Collection, L.L.C. v. Graubard, 2009 WL 1025176. The Appellate Court further addressed the impact of a court admitting a contested fact by judicial notice by determining that it is critically important that a contested fact not be admitted through judicial notice when doing so would conclusively determine the central issue of the case.

    One of the most basic components of arguing a case in court is the presentation of evidence to prove a party’s position. However, there are certain facts that are so universally known that it is unnecessary for a party to prove the validity of such evidence. Such facts are admitted into evidence through judicial notice, which is a mechanism utilized by the court to save time at trial. The case of Palisades Collection, L.L.C. v. Graubard, 2009 WL 1025176 questions judicial notice of such facts in a dispute over the collection of an outstanding credit card debt owed by the Defendant.

    Palisades Collection, L.L.C., the Plaintiff in this case, is a collection agency that attempted to collect on a credit card debt owed by the Defendant, Graubard, to Chevy Chase Bank FSB.. The Defendant contended that the claim was not valid because he was never extended credit by Chevy Chase Bank FSB, though he seems to have admitted he owed such a debt to Bank One. The Plaintiff at trial moved to admit evidence, an article from the New York Times and a web page from Wikipedia, which states that First U.S.A., a unit of Bank One Corporation, purchased the credit card operations of Chevy Chase Bank F.S.B. on September 3, 1998, the fact the Plaintiff needed to prove to sustain its case. The trial court admitted the evidence through judicial notice.

    The court recognized that the doctrine of judicial notice can not be used “to deprive a party of cross-examination regarding a contested fact, the doctrine also cannot be used to take notice of the ultimate legal issue in dispute.” The central issue in the dispute in this case was whether the Plaintiff had standing to bring this claim against the Defendant. To admit such evidence would deprive the Defendant of his right of cross examination and would conclusively determine the central issue in dispute in this case. As a result, the appellate court ruled that this evidence should not have been admitted during the trial.

    Denise M. Bowman is an associate of Hill Wallack LLP in the Yardley office where she is a member of the Business & Commercial Practice Group and the Litigation Division. Ms. Bowman concentrates her practice in the representation of corporate entities and partnerships, buying and selling businesses and real estate and also the representation of individuals and businesses in insurance, commercial litigation, bankruptcy and general business matters.