Rutherford v. State

In Rutherford v. State, 605 P.2d 16 (Alaska 1979), the Alaska Supreme Court admitted memoranda written by state troopers involved in an accident where another state trooper hit a car. The memoranda were admitted pursuant to Alaska's evidence rule, which is identical to Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(2)(D) and 27-801(4)(b)(iv). The statement contained in one memorandum included the opinion that "'Trooper Port could have avoided the accident had he approached the difficult intersection at a slower speed . . . .'" 605 P.2d at 20. The statement in the second memorandum was as follows: "It is my opinion that the responsibility for the accident lies with both drivers. . . . . . . I do feel that Trooper Port used poor judgment in entering a blind intersection at 30 MPH, against the red light and on icy streets. I recommend a letter of reprimand be placed in Trooper Port's personnel file." Id. In Rutherford, the State objected to the admission of the statements contained in the memoranda because the statements contained opinions. The Rutherford court found that this argument was "without merit." 605 P.2d at 24. The court stated that "the majority view is that an admission is not inadmissible because it is not based on firsthand knowledge or is made in the form of an otherwise inadmissible opinion. This majority view is that adopted in the Alaska Rules of Evidence and rejects the state's arguments on this point." Rutherford, 605 P.2d at 24-25. As a result, the Rutherford court found that the memoranda were admissible as the "statement of a party opponent made by an agent or employee concerning a matter within the scope of his agency or employment." Id. at 23.