Admissibility of Investigatory Reports in § 1983 Civil Rights Actions - A User's Manual

64 Pages Posted: 26 May 2014

See all articles by Martin A. Schwartz

Martin A. Schwartz

Touro College - Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center

Date Written: 1996


In many parts of the nation, tense relations between the police and private citizenry have placed law enforcement operations under intense public scrutiny. From coast to coast, commissions and internal affairs units are being employed to investigate allegations of law enforcement misconduct and corruption. These investigations typically culminate in the issuance of an investigatory report. The Article provides a thoughtful analysis of this important question: Are investigatory reports of law enforcement activities admissible in federal civil rights actions brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, challenging the constitutionality of the conduct of law enforcement officers? The admissibility of governmental investigatory reports typically raises difficult contentious issues. This Article examines the various evidentiary issues pertaining to the admissibility of investigatory reports in § 1983 actions.

The discussion commences with an overview of the law governing § 1983 claims arising out of encounters with law enforcement officers, and then provides an overview of the Federal Rule of Evidence 803(6) business records rule, the Rule 803(8) public records rule, and the relationship between these two rules. The Article then turns to the heart of the matter, analyzing the various facets of the Rule 803(8)(C) hearsay exception for investigatory reports, with special attention given to the critical issues of “trustworthiness.” Following that is a discussion of the aspects of relevance, including Rule 403 balancing and the Rule 407 exclusionary rule for subsequent remedial measures. The Article concludes with an exploration of the potentially applicable governmental privileges.

Keywords: Section 1983 litigation, law enforcement operations, investigatory reports, admissibility of evidence, Federal Rules of Evidence, business records as evidence, public records as evidence, hearsay evidence, trustworthiness, governmental privileges

Suggested Citation

Schwartz, Martin A., Admissibility of Investigatory Reports in § 1983 Civil Rights Actions - A User's Manual (1996). 79 Marq. L. Rev. 453 (1996), Touro Law Center Legal Studies Research Paper Series, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Martin A. Schwartz (Contact Author)

Touro College - Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center ( email )

225 Eastview Drive
Central Islip, NY 11722
United States

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