Federal Rules of Evidence

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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Page 355

The Federal Rules of Evidence generally govern civil and criminal proceedings in the courts of the United States and proceedings before U.S. BANKRUPTCY judges and U.S. magistrates, to the extent and with the exceptions stated in the rules. Promulgated by the U.S. Supreme Court and amended by Congress from time to time, the Federal Rules of Evidence are considered legislative enactments that have the force of statute, and courts interpret them as they would any other statute, employing traditional tools of statutory construction in applying their provisions.

The rules are designed to secure fairness in JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATION, to eliminate unjustifiable expense and delay, and to promote the growth and development of the law of evidence so that truth may be ascertained and proceedings justly resolved. Huff v. White Motor Corporation, 609 F.2d 286 (7th Cir. Ind. 1979). But the rules are not intended to result in an exhaustive search for a total and complete understanding of every civil and criminal case that comes before a federal court. Rather, the rules are meant to assist lawyer-adversaries and common sense triers-of-fact in resolving particularized legal disputes. Accordingly, the rules give courts authority to adapt the laws of evidence to circumstances as they arise.

The Federal Rules of Evidence were adopted by order of the Supreme Court on November 20, 1972, transmitted to Congress by Chief Justice WARREN E. BURGER on February 5, 1973, and became effective on July 1, 1973. In enacting these rules, the Supreme Court and Congress did not intend to wipe out years of COMMON LAW development in the field of evidence. To the contrary, the Federal Rules of Evidence largely incorporate the judge-made, common law evidentiary rules in existence at the time of their adoption, and where the federal rules contain gaps or omissions, courts may answer unresolved questions by relying on common law precedent. Like their common law predecessors, the federal rules govern the overall admissibility of evidence, the limitations of relevant evidence, the definition of prejudicial and cumulative evidence, the admissibility of HEARSAY, lay and EXPERT TESTIMONY, the nature of evidentiary presumptions, the grounds for authentication and identification of documentary evidence, and the scope of evidentiary privileges, like the work product, attorney-client, and doctor-patient privileges.

The Federal Rules of...

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