I am a parent who is pursuing a special education impartial hearing without a lawyer. I have learned (in the hearing) that I can question district employee A about an email message I sent to that person, or that that person sent to me. However, I noticed that if the email message was sent to a different district employee, B, I can't ask employee A about it, even if A and B were working closely together on the matters mentioned in the message.

What about an email message I wrote to another witness, who is not a district employee? In this case, it happens to be one of my expert witnesses. In that message I described a specific incident that the student experienced at school. I wrote the message the day the incident occurred, after my child described it to me. Can I introduce that message, and question my expert witness about it? I would like to use the witness as a fact witness (did you receive that email message?) and as an expert witness (is there a nexus between an incident such as what was described in the email, and the disability that this child has been diagnosed with?).

I think this is similar to Anita Hill bringing in friends who testified to the incidents she described to them during the period of time that the incidents were occurring.

Does my reasoning sound okay? I am planning to testify about the description of the incident that I heard from my child, but my child has decided not to testify about that particular incident, which was embarrassing to the child. I'm looking for a way to strengthen, with evidence, the description I will give in my testimony.

The incident occurred between one and two years ago, if that helps.

Edit 9/27/16:

I found that I was permitted to introduce emails as long as I followed the five business days disclosure rule, and as long as I was careful to submit the email in its entirety (i.e. with the header and with no words or paragraphs removed). However, I did trim out signatures and redundant tails, to improve the readability of my email archive, and that was permitted.

When I discovered, during the hearing, that I needed to ask a witness about an email that I had not disclosed as an exhibit, then I found out there are two ways to proceed:

1) if it's short, read it out loud to the witness and then ask a question about it.

2) bring extra copies, show it to the witness, and introduce it into evidence then and there.

  • 1
    I'm not sure your recent questions are on topic here. You're talking about an administrative hearing, not one covered by rules of court or any procedural code. Ultimately administrative hearings follow the decisions of the administrative agency and representatives. They're a step down from small claims court, where, subject to very broad and vague guidelines, the judge can allow or disallow whatever he wants. If you want to know about rules of court for a particular jurisdiction then ask about those. Just realize that probably won't apply to your hearing.
    – feetwet
    Aug 14, 2016 at 16:19
  • 2
    @feetwet administrative law is still law so should be on topic
    – Dale M
    Aug 14, 2016 at 21:39

1 Answer 1


You're going to an administrative hearing overseen by an "Impartial Hearing Officer" (IHO). Your goal should be to present your case in as clear, concise, and compelling a manner as possible.

If there are guidelines for the hearing then abide by those.

Ideally, the IHO will be a real lawyer or judge, in which case they will likely be concerned with giving everyone a chance to advance their position and then efficiently achieving a resolution of the issue that appears most impartial and is least upsetting to everyone involved.

Often, however, you will find the IHO is a bureaucrat who enjoys making up and enforcing procedural rules. In which case all you can do is ask, "What are the rules?" and do your best to follow them (or just start working on your appeal now). For example, if the IHO wants to make the hearing "court-like," then you could read your state's Code of Civil Procedure. But if you bring a copy and when the IHO says X point out the CCP says Y, then all you will have accomplished is to irritate the IHO: He'll either grudgingly allow Y, or declare that in his hearing it's X. That will not help you achieve your goal.

Re-reading your question: It sounds like you're trying to make up rules for yourself. Remember that you are not a lawyer, and the hearing is not a court of law. If you assert evidence it should be accepted based on what a "reasonable person" would believe. You don't have to establish a forensic chain of custody.

So tell your story, and if there's an email that documents it more compellingly – e.g., because you're recounting events from two years ago – then note that you're reading what you wrote two years ago as opposed to stating what you remember now, because that bolsters the credibility of your testimony.

If there's evidence in an Email from B, and A knows something about those matters, you should be allowed to ask A about the substance informed by the Email, even if A can't address the writing or sending of that particular message. (But remember: Never ask a hostile party a question if you don't already know what their answer should be!)

If you really want to prepare, find someone to play devil's advocate, and present your case to them. That's a good way to find and correct things that hurt or distract from your case.

  • He's a lawyer and has a lot of experience as an IHO. He answers questions when we're in session but he's not terribly responsive to email, and I'm not allowed to talk to him on the phone unless it's a three-way conference. If I follow whatever is kosher in a more stringent environment, I'll be okay in the impartial hearing. Aug 14, 2016 at 19:28
  • @aparente001 - That's good: If he's a lawyer, then he knows that you're not a lawyer, and that it would be unreasonable to expect you to pretend you are. All you have to do is be reasonable and diligent in presenting your case. E.g., if an email message contains evidence that supports your case then just present it. If the counterparty disputes its veracity it's up to the IHO whether to allow that dispute, and if so to assert a process to discern its veracity. (If you obtained it illegally then any IHO would be justified in excluding it.)
    – feetwet
    Aug 14, 2016 at 19:53

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