GBS: On Declarations

I’ve been asked about the legal significance of the various “declarations” filed in the case. As long as I’m answering, I thought I might as well answer publicly.

In short, a declaration, as a document filed with a court, is just evidence. It’s presented so that the evidence is available to the court. The key word is “available.” It’s subject to the other rules governing the receipt of evidence: e.g., there must be a reason to believe the author actually has knowledge of what she says, the fact-finder might decide not to believe what she says, and so on. But assuming it gets past those other hurdles, the court can use the facts the author asserts in support of its decision. Like testimony in court or physical exhibits, a declaration provides evidentiary support.

You also can’t generally just make up stuff and put it in a declaration. The author typically signs it on oath under penalty of perjury, and the lawyer submitting it takes responsibility for not knowingly presenting falsehoods to the court.

Thanks, James. That’s very helpful. So could anyone have submitted a declaration about the GBS? For instance, could I have put my findings about mistakes in the database in a declaration and formally filed it as evidence. Or would I have had to ask someone (the court, the defendents, the plaintiffs) for permission first. And are deadlines for declarations different from deadlines for objections?

An opt-out or objection letter could also contain information; many of them have. The court doesn’t necessarily need it to be in declaration form for it to be considered. Whether the court would consider filings (whether they’re “declarations” or not) identifying additional facts you think would be of interest is a question that might be better addressed to Judge Chin’s chambers — since the deadlines and procedures are all matters that come from his orders, rather than being externally imposed.