Attorneys and judges often undergo a great deal of deliberation in determining what types of evidence may be admissible for court trials. When a court takes judicial notice, it deems certain facts and laws as generally irrefutable and conclusive. This law of evidence allows trials to be conducted with haste, as it relieves the burden of proof from whichever party requests such notice for trial. Without this capability, the opposing party may hold up the trial process by debating evidence that need not be debated.
Judicial notice often applies to facts perceived as common knowledge within the territorial jurisdiction of the court. It also applies to any information that may be easily verified in an encyclopedia, dictionary, or reference book. Anything that can be verified by an expert source may also be used.
For example, certain scientific facts may not be considered common knowledge among the general population. If considered reasonably indisputable by the scientific community, the court may take notice of these facts. The facts, laws, and other content of the court case at-hand may also be requested for judicial notice, but any information that stems from other court cases is not admissible.
Frequently, notice is requested before a trial. One party presents its facts to the opposing party and provides any necessary documentation to support such information. The judge allows both parties to be heard before notice is officially taken, and the jury is then instructed to take such evidence as fact. Occasionally, an attorney, prosecuting party, or defendant cannot anticipate what evidence they may wish to enter in court until the trial is already under way. In this case, a request for judicial notice may be supplied to the judge at an early stage of the trial. Notice may also be taken at the discretion of the court itself; it does not always require a request from one party or the other.
Criminal cases and civil cases do have slightly different standards for taking judicial notice. In criminal cases, the evidence and facts presented are presumed to be true, yet the opposing party is permitted to enter refuting evidence at its discretion. As such an allowance may potentially hinder the speed of a trial, this is not permitted in civil cases. To the contrary, judicial notice is considered totally conclusive and factual in a civil case. Once granted, it may not be contradicted by any evidence from the opposing party.