Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The Giant(s) Of Illinois: Supreme Court Of Illinois Forms Special Committee To Create Illinois Rules Of Evidence
As I have noted on a few occasions (here, here, and here), Illinois does not currently have codified rules of evidence, which has created serious problems because case law is inconsistent, rendering judges uncertain about how to make evidentiary rulings. As I noted this summer, in a post about an Illinois case dealing with the statement against interest exception to the rule against hearsay,
"the state of the law is so unsettled that litigants can't really know what to expect in cases where they seek to admit or exclude statements against interest. All of which makes incoming Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald's claim that he is going to 'try to do something with possibly codifying the law of evidence in Illinois' of supreme importance."
Yesterday, Chief Justice Fitzgerald took a giant step toward fulfilling that promise when the Illinois Supreme Court announced the formation of a Special Committee on Illinois Evidence with the aim of codifying existing evidentiary law so that it is available in a single source. The Special Committee, appointed by the Supreme Court, is composed of a blue ribbon roster of judges, practitioners, law professors and state legislators.
I don't know any of the judges, practitioners, or state legislators well enough to be able to say what they will be able to bring to the table. Conversely, one of the Special Committee members is my colleague, Ralph Ruebner, who will also serve as Reporter, and whom I am sure will do a bang up job based upon his expertise in evidence law. Also, University of Miami School of Law Professor Michael Graham will serve as an advisor to the Special Committee, and, while I don't know him personally, I have read a good deal of his scholarship, and it is clear to me that he is one of the most knowledgeable evidence authorities in the country (he has also served as the author of Cleary & Graham’s "The Handbook of Illinois Evidence.").
According to Chief Justice Fitzgerald, "The function of this project is to codify existing law, which is presently contained in state statutes, Supreme Court rules and the common law....Having the rules of evidence in a single location would be of enormous value to the practitioner." It is a worthy goal, and one which I expect to be achieved with flying colors based upon the talent involved.
(Hat tip to my colleague Mark Wojcik)