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Google Search Permissible under Rule 201 in Evaluating Evidence in a Case

In a recent Law.com article entitled "Court's Google Search Did Not Violate Evidence Rules, 2nd Circuit Says", Author Joel Stashenko reports on a case in which a Southern District of New York Judge used an internet search to evaluate evidence in a case.  The Appeals Court ruled that the Judge’s internet search was to confirm what his “common sense” told him about the item at issue.  The Appeals Court also agreed that the Federal Rules of Evidence do not apply in their normal force to supervised release revocation proceedings.

On appeal, the circuit in an unsigned opinion rejected Bari's contention that Judge Chin had violated Rule 605 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which states that the "judge presiding at the trial may not testify in that trial as a witness," by conducting the Internet search and relying on the outcome to make his ruling.

Government attorneys countered that Chin's ruling should stand.

They contended that his Google search is permissible under Rule 201, which allows courts to "take judicial notice, whether requested or not" 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."

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