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Minn. R. Evid. 901: Don’t Take Authentication for Granted

| May 18, 2018 | Trial Practice |

Minnesota’s Rule 901(b) (on authentication) includes the following example of how a system can be authenticated:

(9) Process or system. Evidence describing a process or system used to produce a result and showing that the process or system produces an accurate result.

Minn. R. Evid. 901(b)(9) (2018). But state court practitioners should avoid taking too much for granted when it comes to presenting records derived from a process or system, particularly if a live witness will not be called to authenticate the records. For example, a court excluded bank records based on the following discussion:

Here, Lisa Pearson, a legal process specialist at Norwest Corporation, provided only a written certification that: (1) certain listed exhibits are “copies of the original bank records that are kept in the normal course of business;” and (2) “the fronts and backs of the checks correspond with one another.” Pearson’s certification was inadequate because it did not describe the microfiche process or system used by the bank, it did not apply to all of the checks submitted in exhibits 1 and 2, and Pearson did not testify at trial.

Q. Mc. Plastic Mach., Inc. v. Hartmann, C3-96-184, 1996 WL 537630, at *2 (Minn. Ct. App. Sept. 24, 1996).

When in doubt, state court practitioners should err on the side of caution and call a witness knowledgeable about the system or process. (Federal practitioners now have the benefit of Rule 901(13) and 901(14), which provide self-authentication methods that allow certifications from knowledgeable parties rather than live testimony.)