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Self-Representation in Court

Arkansas Rules of Evidence

Evidence is what the judge allows to be heard and considered. Evidence might be physical exhibits, such as photographs or bruises. A witness’s testimony is evidence, whether that testimony is given in court or in a deposition. A witness may only testify about what they have personally seen or heard.

There are, however, many things that must not be considered as evidence. For example, what a lawyer or self-represented litigant says or claims to have proven is not evidence. Nor is testimony that the judge has ordered stricken from the record and disregarded. The judge must treat all such testimony as though it had never been given. Similarly, matters that a lawyer or self-represented litigant offers to prove, but that the judge will not allow to be presented, are not to be considered as evidence.

A judge is not to consider any information about the witnesses, parties, or lawyers or anything connected with the case other than the evidence seen and heard in the courtroom. 

There are rules the judge, lawyers, and self-represented litigants must follow and fairness demands that the judge only hear certain evidence. The lawyers are not being stubborn and the judge is not acting arbitrarily; each is merely applying the rules of evidence as he or she understands them. 

Generally, the following are admissible and may be considered by the judge when deciding a case:

  • A witness's answer to a question asked by the lawyer, self-represented litigant, or the judge;
  • A deposition from an unavailable witness;
  • Any exhibit admitted by the judge such as contracts, documents, court records, or physical objects;
  • Stipulations such as agreements reached by each party as to a certain fact which may be considered without actual proof of the fact (e.g., a particular date or time).

The following are NOT evidence and may not be considered by the judge:

  • A witness's statement which is stricken from the record, either by order of the judge or by agreement of the parties.
  • Statements by lawyers or self-represented litigants about what they expect to prove or have proven. The opening statements and closing arguments and any remarks made during the trial are only made to help you better understand the evidence, but they are not evidence themselves;
  • Anything about the case from outside the courtroom either by obtaining personal information, reading newspapers, or listening to radio or television broadcasts;

More information about what evidence is, what may be admitted, and how it may be admitted, is available in the Arkansas Rules of Evidence

Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure

Civil Procedure consists of the rules by which courts conduct civil trials. "Civil trials" concern the judicial resolution of claims by one individual or class against another and are to be distinguished from "criminal trials," in which the state prosecutes an individual for violation of criminal law. Find the Arkansas rules at: Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure

Arkansas Benchbooks

Arkansas benchbooks are a resource for members of the judiciary. The books attempt to take relevant statutes, court rules, case law, and forms for a particular area and consolidate them into one document. The benchbooks do not carry any legal authority and should not be cited in legal proceedings or documents.

Readers are encouraged to use the books as a quick reference to applicable law. To ensure judges have an accurate reflection of the law, hyperlinks have been included to direct the reader to relevant statutes, court rules, and case law. There are five Benchbooks available: Civil and Criminal Benchbook, District Court Benchbook, Domestic Relations Benchbook, Miscellaneous Benchbook, and Probate Benchbook.

You may access Benchbooks on the Arkansas Judiciary website: Benchbooks | Arkansas Judiciary (