Administrative Tribunals Rules of Evidence In Rhode Island

It is well settled in our jurisprudence that administrative tribunals are not rigidly bound by the same rules of evidence that govern formal court proceedings.

The restrictions that are found in the Rhode Island Rules of Evidence on the admissibility of hearsay and parol evidence, for example, in a court proceeding, reflect an attempt to maintain the integrity of our jury system.

While jurors' exposure to improperly influential evidence should be limited, administrative tribunals rarely need such safeguards.

It is agreed that such tribunals may "take into account evidence that would be excluded from a trial by jury if it would be prudent to do so, given the requirements of the statute being enforced." DePasquale v. Harrington, 599 A.2d 314 (R.I. 1991).

All one must do is look to our general laws to find that it was not our legislature's intent to "proscribe the reception of incompetent evidence along with 'irrelevant, immaterial, or unduly repetitious evidence.'" Id. at 316; see also, G.L. 1956 § 42-35-10(a).

Other examples of this liberal allowance of evidence in administrative tribunals may be found in the federal Administrative Procedures Act, from which the Rhode Island version has emanated.

Here the act provides that "any oral or documentary evidence may be received, but every agency shall as a matter of policy provide for the exclusion of irrelevant, immaterial or unduly repetitious evidence." 2 Charles H. Koch, Jr., Administrative Law and Practice, § 5.52(1) at 172 (1997 2nd. Ed).