Peculiar and Obscure – What a Combination
A case involving what a California court refers to as a “peculiar and obscure” statute provides a lesson on the limits of using material gathered from the Internet as evidence. A California resident sought class action certification in a case against the Verizon Company for allegedly violating the aforementioned peculiar and obscure statute that regulates service calls by California utilities. The court denied the class action request, finding that the plaintiff was required to proceed in small claims court. But the appellate court noted that the trial court erred when it took “judicial notice” of some pages from the California Public Utilities Commission offered as evidence by Verizon. Verizon presented the pages to show that it was not listed as one of the utilities regulated by the CPUC, and therefore, it could not be considered a utility. “Judicial notice” is a concept in evidence that allows parties to introduce certain matters without going through the process of “authenticating” the information. For example, a party could ask a judge to take judicial notice of the fact that May 21, 2013 was a Tuesday. It is reserved for really obvious facts that no serious person could contest. For example, if I were a judge I would take judicial notice of the fact that Tony LaRussa is a jerk. Which is one of the many reasons I am probably not a judge. But back to the case. The California Appellate court disagreed with the premise that merely being on the Internet gave the documents some sort of official status. As the court noted, the materials contain “unauthenticated statements with no indication of author, custodian, date of creation, purpose, reliability or veracity.” In short, just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t make it so. Which is evidenced by probably 50% of profiles posted on most online dating services!