Golden Gate University Law Review


The majority opinion in United States v. Curtin held that simple possession of reading material can be evidence of a defendant's criminal intent, even without proof that the accused ever read the materials. Circuit Judge Stephen S. Trott, who wrote the majority decision, overruled prior Ninth Circuit precedent that would have made such evidence inadmissible as irrelevant under Federal Rule of Evidence 401. However, the majority also found the district court judge's failure to properly analyze the evidence under Rule 403 warranted reversal and remand. As a result, the remaining seven judges on the panel filed or joined concurrences, rather than dissents because even where they disagreed with the reasoning, they concurred in the result. Curtin will have a lasting impact on how courts in the Ninth Circuit analyze relevance under Rule 401, prior bad acts under Rule 404, and how they use the Rule 403 balancing test.