Are SOS Records Admissible In Court?

August 13, 2023


If you pay extra for certified copies of corporate documents from the (e.g.) California Secretary of State (SOS), are they admissible in court; for example on a motion for alter ego? Or, do you have to subpoena the SOS, and have them send the documents under seal, like most other documents that you wish to get entered into evidence? What is the purpose of certification, if it does not make them admissible in court?

One of many judgment articles: I am not a lawyer, and this article is my opinion based on my experience in California, please consult with a lawyer if you need legal advice.

Getting SOS records court admissible as evidence, is the only reason you would want to order certified copies from the SOS. It is interesting how documents where the custodian of records has certified their correctness and completeness, are inadmissible once they have passed through your hands; unless they first go through a deposition officer for Bates stamping; however certified documents from the SOS are nonetheless admissible even if you bring them to court.

Does the Secretary of State emboss every page with a raised seal to provide some greater assurance of lack of tampering; than with common documents produced in the ordinary course of business? The answer is no, and one must only comply with California evidence codes 450-460 and 1280-1284. SOS records are public records and are business records subject to the business record exceptions.

The best way to get documents admissible by the court, is to file a request for judicial notice. The request for judicial notice should be filed well in advance of the hearing, because the hearing date will be the same date that the requested motion will be decided.

Doing this will also encourage the other side to file any objections well in advance of the hearing, so that you will have time to prepare for those objections in advance. There are two steps in getting any document admitted to the court:

1) Authenticity, where you cite the evidence code provisions which arguably help prove the authenticity of your official signatures and seals.

2) The official records exception to the hearsay rules. The hearsay rules include that all party statements may be determined to be admissible by the court. Sometimes you will have multiple steps of potential hearsay, and will need an exception for each step. The party statement (incorrectly titled party admission) exception is often very useful.

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