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Archive for September 13th, 2007

Imwinkelried 11 Step method to authenticating computer records to the court

Posted by rjbiii on September 13, 2007

11 Steps to Authenticating Computer Records

Professor Imwinkelried perceives electronic records as a form of scientific evidence and discerns an eleven-step foundation for computer records:

“1. The business uses a computer.

2. The computer is reliable.

3. The business has developed a procedure for inserting data into the computer.

4. The procedure has built-in safeguards to ensure accuracy and identify errors.

5. The business keeps the computer in a good state of repair.

6. The witness had the computer readout certain data.

7. The witness used the proper procedures to obtain the readout.

8. The computer was in working order at the time the witness obtained the readout.

9. The witness recognizes the exhibit as the readout.

10. The witness explains how he or she recognizes the readout.

11. If the readout contains strange symbols or terms, the witness explains the meaning of the symbols or terms for the trier of fact.”

As the foregoing cases illustrate, there is a wide disparity between the most lenient positions courts have taken in accepting electronic records as authentic and the most demanding requirements that have been imposed. Further, it would not be surprising to find that, to date, more courts have tended towards the lenient rather than the demanding approach. However, it also is plain that commentators and courts increasingly recognize the special characteristics of electronically stored records, and there appears to be a growing awareness, as expressed in the Manual for Complex Litigation, that courts “should … consider the accuracy and reliability of computerized evidence” in ruling on its admissibility. Lawyers can expect to encounter judges in both camps, and in the absence of controlling precedent in the court where an action is pending setting forth the foundational requirements for computer records, there is uncertainty about which approach will be required. Further, although “it may be better to be lucky than good,” as the saying goes, counsel would be wise not to test their luck unnecessarily. If it is critical to the success of your case to admit into evidence computer stored records, it would be prudent to plan to authenticate the record by the most rigorous standard that may be applied. If less is required, then luck was with you.

Lorraine v. Markel Am. Ins. Co., 241 F.R.D. 534, 558-59 (D. Md. 2007) (citing In re Vee Vinhee, 336 B.R. 437 (Bkrptcy, 9th Cir. 2005); Edward Imwinkelried, EVIDENTIARY FOUNDATIONS, § 4.03[2]).

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