‘Ancient’ Newspapers

Are statements in a newspaper article admissible in Federal Court for the truth? If the article is more than 20 years old, the answer is generally yes. Federal Rule of Evidence 803(16) — the ‛Ancient Documents“ rule — provides that ‛[s]tatements in a document in existence twenty years or more the authenticity of which is established“ are not excluded by the hearsay rule. The Advisory Committee Note specifically endorses the use of the rule to admit ‛ancient“ newspaper articles for their truth. See Fed. R. Evid. 803(16) Advisory Committee Note (1972) (citing Dallas County v. Commercial Union Assurance Co., 286 F.2d 388 (5th Cir. 1961), which upheld the admissibility of a 58-year old newspaper story). Newspaper articles are self-authenticating under Rule 902(6), so the ancient article itself satisfies the authenticity requirement of Rule 803(16). See, e.g., Hicks v. Charles Pfizer & Co. Inc., 368 F. Supp.2d 628, 633 (E.D. Tex. 2005); Greene Archives, Inc. v. BPI Comm’s, Inc., 378 F. Supp.2d 1189, 1195 n.3 (C.D. Cal. 2005).

Doug Pepe

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