Using documents as evidence in Supreme Court

Supreme Court

Evidence is the information you use in court to convince the judge to make the order you've asked for. The judge decides what evidence can or can't be presented in (shown to) court.

See What is evidence and how do you present it in Supreme Court? to find out more about what evidence can be presented in court.

One way to present your evidence is by using documents that support your case.

But you can't just turn up at court with the documents on the day of your trial. You need to share the documents you're going to use as evidence with the other person (the law calls them the other party).

Sharing your documents like this is called discovery.

See What is discovery?. This page also explains what counts as a document in Supreme Court.

How do you introduce documents at a trial?

Before you can use a document or other piece of evidence at trial, you, the other person, or another witness has to identify it by telling the judge:

  • who wrote the document, and
  • what it's about.

Under the best evidence rule, you usually need to use the original document in court. If you can't get the original, you might to need tell the court why you couldn't get it.

After a document has been admitted as evidence in a trial, it becomes an exhibit.

Here's how to get a piece of evidence marked as an exhibit at a trial:

  1. Show the document (or other evidence) to the other person's lawyer (or the person themselves, if they don't have a lawyer). Tell the judge that you disclosed (showed) this document to the other person in your case before the trial or gave them a copy of it.
  2. Show the document to the witness.
  3. Ask the witness questions so they can identify the document and confirm what it is (or do this yourself if you're the witness). (For example, you could show them a bank statement and say, "I am showing you a bank account statement dated February 28, 2019. Is this a statement from your TD Savings account from February 28, 2019?")
  4. Ask the judge to admit the document into evidence as an exhibit by saying, "My Lord/My Lady, I'd like to offer this text message as the next exhibit." If the other person doesn't object to the document being entered into evidence as an exhibit, the judge will confirm that it's an exhibit and give it an exhibit number.

Watch this video for an example of how to introduce an exhibit using a witness.

Don't try to use anything that's long, like an email chain or diary notes. These types of documents are usually full of information that the judge has to ignore, like opinions and arguments. If you want to use something like this, find the part that relates to your case and refer only to that part.

How do you use written sworn statements as evidence?

See the Justice Education Society's guidebook Discovery Process to find out how to use: