Shotwell v. Donahoe

In Shotwell v. Donahoe, 207 Ariz. 287, 288-89, P 1, 85 P.3d 1045, 1046-47 (2004), the Arizona Supreme Court specifically rejected the Ninth Circuit's per se rule, finding instead that EEOC reasonable cause determinations are subject to the same tests for admissibility as any other evidence. 207 Ariz. at 290, P 8, 85 P.3d at 1048. The supreme court noted that EEOC determinations are "assumed to be trustworthy and therefore admissible hearsay" because they constitute the "embodiment of the conclusions of 'an investigation made pursuant to authority granted by law.'" Id. at 294-95, P 28, 85 P.3d at 1052-53. It further observed that EEOC reasonable cause determinations can "certainly be probative of matters at issue" in discrimination and retaliation cases. Id. at 296, P 35, 85 P.3d at 1054. Despite the inherent reliability and relevance of EEOC determination letters, however, the supreme court held that a trial court may determine, under the facts of each case, whether EEOC determinations are admissible by applying other evidentiary rules. Id. at P 36. Specifically, the court noted that Arizona Rule of Evidence 403 allows a judge to exclude otherwise admissible evidence if such evidence presents a danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the jury, or waste of time that substantially outweighs its probative value. Id. at 295-96, PP 32-36, 85 P.3d at 1053-54. However, the court held that, if a trial court excludes a reasonable cause determination, it must set forth its reasons for doing so to permit effective review of that determination by an appellate court. Id. at P 33.