Code Talk Hearsay

navajocodeThe parties in Morton v. Yonkers disputed whether a gas royalty interest was void under the laws of the Navajo Nation.  No. 13-10926 (Nov. 19, 2014).  One party submitted a letter from an attorney for the Navajo Nation Department of Justice, opining that the “purported overriding royalty interest is invalid under the applicable provisions of the Navajo Nation Code and is completely void.”  The Fifth Circuit affirmed the lower courts’ conclusion that this letter was inadmissible hearsay, and did not qualify for an exemption under Fed. R. Evid. 803(8) or (15) [public records and statements about property interests]; or the general exception in Rule 807 [the former 803(24) and 804(b)(5), combined in 2011]: “Trustworthiness is the linchpin of these hearsay exceptions.  We are persuaded by the district court’s thorough explanation that the letter is untrustworthy, in large part because it was drafted by Morton’s counsel and was prepared after Morton’s counsel provided the Navajo Nation official with only one side of the story.”

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