With the recent changes in immigration law, many immigrants in Georgia are shying away from utilizing the court system for fear of being deported. This is unfortunate and unwarranted because Georgia law is clear: evidence concerning a party’s immigration status is irrelevant to the issues of negligence and damages in a lawsuit. This type of evidence is highly prejudicial and has no probative force as to the issues involved. E.g., Evans v. State 433 S.E.2d 426 (Ga. App. 1993).
The admission of this evidence at trial would improperly influence the jury and result in a jury decision based on bias and prejudice, rather than on the relevant facts of the case.
In Georgia state court, admissibility of this type of evidence is governed by O.C.G.A. § 24-2-1. Evidence that is irrelevant to the issues at trial is NOT admissible. Evidence is relevant if it has a logical relationship to the fact to be established. In a typical personal injury lawsuit, the citizenship and immigration status of the plaintiff simply have no relevance to the issues at hand (typically liability and damages) and are only sought to be introduced by the Defendant to bias the jury.
In federal court, references to citizenship and immigration status are governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 402, which excludes all evidence that is not relevant. Relevant evidence is evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence. FRE 401.
Evidence related to a Plaintiff’s citizenship or immigration status is irrelevant and should be excluded by the trial judge in both federal and state courts in Georgia.
Not only are the issues of citizenship and immigration status inadmissible in Georgia trials, a recent federal court decision has held that this information is not discoverable during pre-trial discovery. Rodriguez v. Niagara Cleaning, No. 09-CV-22645, 2010 WL 2573974, at *3 (S.D. Fla. June 24, 2010). In the Rodriguez case, the Defendant attempted to discover pretrial information on the Plaintiff’s citizenship and immigration status. In denying Defendant’s motion to compel Plaintiff to produce this information, the Rodriguez court correctly noted “courts that have examined this issue have nearly unanimously found that defendants typically are not entitled to information related to the immigration status of plaintiffs.”