Judicial notice is a method used by courts to deem matters of fact or law as true without the need to present formal evidence.
What Can a Court Take Judicial Notice of in a Case?
There are two things a court can take judicial notice of in a case.
- Matters of Fact
A court may take judicial notice of facts in issue or facts from which they may be inferred. A judicially noticed fact must be: (a) generally known within the jurisdiction of where the trial court is located; and (b) capable of accurate and ready determination from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned, leading to a fact that is not subject to reasonable dispute.
- Matters of Law
A court may take judicial notice of certain matters of law. The following are some matters of law a court may take judicial of:
- The Constitution
- The United States Statutes
- The Constitution of States
- State Statutes
- County, city, or town codes and ordinances
- Administrative Codes
- Population of cities and states
- Case Law
When Can a Court Take Judicial Notice in a Case?
A court may take judicial notice at any stage of the case prior to submitting the case to the judge or jury for a verdict.
Is a Court Required to Take Judicial Notice in a Case?
A court may take judicial notice of matters of fact or law when requested by a party or at its own discretion. If requested by a party, a court must take judicial notice if supplied with the necessary information.
The Jury: Civil versus Criminal Matters
In civil matters, the court must instruct the jury to accept the judicially noticed fact or law as conclusive. However, in criminal matters, the court must instruct the jury that it may or may not accept the judicially noticed fact or law as conclusive.
The case of Andolino v. State, 99 Nev. 346 (1983) provides an example of when a court may take judicial notice of case law when provided with the decision and order from the court that determined the law. In Andolino, a snowstorm swept the Las Vegas area and created hazardous road conditions. Road crews were dispatched to plow the highways. Plaintiffs were injured when their car entered an offramp, spun out of control, and collided with a guardrail as a result of snow and ice on the offramp.
The trial court granted summary judgment for the state and plaintiffs appealed. The appeals court reversed summary judgment in favor of the state, holding that the state owed an affirmative duty to maintain highways and keep them reasonably safe for the traveling public. The appeals court remanded the case back to the trial court. On remand, the trial judge sua sponte (on its own) suggested that plaintiffs had not established that the scene of the subject accident was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Highways. Plaintiffs directed the trial court to the appeal’s court holding that the state owed an affirmative duty and requested the trial court take judicial notice of it. The trial court declined to do so and issued an order in favor of the state. Plaintiffs appealed for the second time and the appeal’s court reversed the trial court’s decision.
The appeals court determined that Nevada law found in reported court opinions may be subject to judicial notice. When a plaintiff’s counsel addresses the trial court with the reasoning and holding of a court opinion and provides the court with that court’s decision and order as part of the trial record, the court must mandatorily take judicial notice of that law pursuant to NRS 47.150. Andolino further recognized that judicial notice of case law is generally unnecessary. However, when a trial court fails to recognize case law, counsel can remedy the situation by requesting judicial notice of the law and providing the necessary information to the court pursuant to NRS 47.150.