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Matter of Record

Anything that has been entered in the formal written record of a court, which can be proved by the production of that record.

A court produces a lengthy written record of a trial. A matter of record is anything entered in the official court record, including pleadings, testimony, evidence, motions, objections, rulings, and the verdict. Any matter of record can be proved by producing the relevant document from the trial court record.

Proving matters of record is especially important in petitions for appeal. When appellate courts determine whether to hear an appeal, the existence of a matter of record can be decisive: the record can conclusively refute allegations contained in the petition. Thus, for example, an appeal based on something said in testimony must be supported by the record; if it is not, the court may deny the petition without any further consideration. An appellate court in most instances will not consider evidence, issues, or objections that were not made a part of the record at trial. Getting an issue into the record at trial is said to preserve the issue for appeal.

In general, matters of record are available to the public unless state law or court order prevents them from being released. For example, courts typically refuse to release the names of minors who are victims of sexual assault. Rhode Island's family court rules of practice provide another example; matters of record "involving scandal or immoral practices" are kept private except from the parties in interest or their representatives (R.I. R. Fam. Ct. Prac. Rule 3.3).

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