Reconsidering the role of judicial notice in establishing the reliability of forensic science evidence

By taking judicial notice of the reliability of forensics based on mere admission in prior cases, courts risk admitting evidence that is entirely untested, if not unreliable. Moreover, by foregoing any independent review of the science in favor of judicial notice, courts fail to recognize advances in the science and continue to accept evidence even after their scientific bases have become doubtful. In light of these problems, this Paper argues that trial courts should not take judicial notice of the reliability of forensic science evidence unless another court within the jurisdiction subjected the theory or method in question to an adversar-ial hearing and subsequently admitted the evidence. Before using a prior adversarial hearing as a predicate for judicial notice, however, the judge must expressly evaluate the adequacy of that hearing to ensure that the volume and veracity of the evidence presented, whether evi-dence of unreliability was presented by the defense, and whether admis-sion of the evidence was of central importance to the case indicate that reliability was extensively and competently litigated.
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