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How to introduce pleadings in Court's file as Exhibits in Trial?

Vallejo, CA |

I'm having trouble finding any guidance for introducing pleadings or other papers that have been previously submitted, as evidence at trial, such as the Complaint, Responses to Discovery, etc. Is the entire trial file available to the jury during deliberations? If I wish to introduce such a paper, must it be individually listed in the List of Exhibits, or is something like "papers in the Court's record" sufficient ? Would I then need to provide exhibit copies at trial? If there is something in the Complaint, say, stated in the background material within a paper which is prejudicial, is it possible to keep this away from the jury? (In other words, can I introduce only selected portions of the Complaint at trial?) Thanks!

Attorney Answers 3


Pleadings are not evidence and are not usually included as trial exhibits. (An unverified complaint contains plaintiff's allegations and an Answer contains defendant's denials. These are not evidence.) On the other hand, written discovery responses can be part of trial exhibits. Discovery responses are verified under oath and is evidence. So are transcripts of depositions (which are taken under oath). Most judges want specific descriptions of each exhibit, not simply "papers in the Court's records." Check the court's "local local" rules (rules of the the department / court) or specific order that may have been issued by the judge regarding trials and handling of exhibits. Most judges have detailed requirements regarding trial exhibits, jury instructions, motions in limine, etc. Most judges will require binders of exhbits that are marked in accordance with the court's instructions. You may need to prepare up to five 3-ring binders of exhibits - one for the judge, one for you, one for the opponent, one for the witness who is testfying and may be asked to look at an exhibit, and one for the clerk). Some judges will require you to cull the relevant portions of the document, and others will allow you to include the entire document. Many judges will require the parties to meet and confer prior to final status conference and agree on a joint list of exhibits (which may then be jointly numbered in a single exhibit binder). There may be exhibits that a party wants to introduce but the other party may object as to relevancy, admissability, etc. If the parties can't agree whether an exhibit is appropriate, the dourt may have to make a ruling as to whther that exhibit can be included or not. CHECK THE COURT'S RULES OR PRE-TRIAL ORDER REGARDING THE HANDLING OF EXHIBITS, as well as the general rules of the court. Good luck.

This response is for information purpose only and does not constitute a legal advice. This response does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Thank you, Mr. Lee. Sadly, I won't know the assigned judge until the first day of trial, and there is no requirement for pre-trial exchange of exhibits. Again, just first day of trial. This is all incredibly extemporaneous to my mind. (I spent some time with the senior court clerk supervisor yesterday, and she completely agreed with me.) Opposing party had filed an affidavit saying everything in his original complaint was true. So is it possible, then, after getting the affidavit admitted, to just read a passage from his intial complaint (which has been amended about 7 times) for impeachment purposes and ask him about it? I figured I would have to move the earlier complaint into evidence first before I could question him, since his later versions dropped a number of passages.


You must typically list, mark and provide each document as a separate exhibit. Most judges have rules which they incorporate into pretrial orders describing how they want to handle exhibits. You should look on the court's web site to ascertain whether there are any procedures identified. If you are unable to find any such procedures, you might want to call the judge's clerk to ask about any specific rules the judge has for identifying and providing exhibits at trial. If you want to exclude evidence at trial, this is usually done by way of in limine motions. You may want to pay an attorney for some guidance.

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I agree with the responses from the other attorneys. There is really nothing that I can add other than if this is a small claims case then the rules of evidence and procedure are usually relaxed so that litigants in pro per can have their day in court.

This response does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and I. I am not your lawyer and I am not representing you in the underlying issue stated in your question. The response I have offered is not intended to be relied upon, you should seek out an attorney to assist in this matter.

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