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Chris Larson, Esq.

Meub Gallivan & Larson, Attorneys, PLC

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Rutland, Vermont 05701

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HEARSAY

The Hearsay Rule

The rules of evidence limit what a judge can consider at a hearing. One of those rules says that a judge cannot consider "hearsay." The laws about this rule are very complicated and even lawyers and judges often have arguments about whether particular evidence can be considered. These rules are beyond the scope of this guide. A very brief explanation should help though.

 

What is Hearsay?

Hearsay is any statement made by a person who is not testifying in court that is supposed to be true. Hearsay can be a statement made by a witness (e.g., "Then Bill said that...") or it could be a document prepared by someone who is not available to testify.

 

NOTE: Statements made by either party in the case are not hearsay. If a witness says they heard YOU say something, that is not hearsay and the judge can consider it. If you testify that the other party said something, the judge can consider that as well.

 

What do I do if the other party tried to offer hearsay evidence?

You need to object to this evidence. Stand up quickly and say "Objection, hearsay." Don't explain further unless the judge asks you to. If it is a hearsay statement or document, the judge will probably either say that the statement is not admissible ("sustained") or that the evidence will not be considered for the truth of the matter. If the judge disagrees, she or he will say "over-ruled."

 

Where can I go to find out more information about hearsay?

  • A more complete overview is available here.

  • The Vermont Rules of Evidence are available here (Although this site is a bit difficult to use).

 

TIP: There are often reasons why you would like the judge to consider a statement even though you do not think it is true. For example, if the other party called you a horrible name in front of the children, the judge probably wants to hear what that statement was. But you obviously don't believe that you really are what the other party said. In this case, you can tell the judge what the statement was. It is not hearsay because you are not stating that it is true!