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Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Rules: Supreme Court Adopts Restyled Federal Rules Of Evidence & Sends Them To Congress

As I have previously noted on this blog,

After the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Conference of the United States Courts "restyled" the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, it tackled its latest project:  the Federal Rules of Evidence. The goal in all of these projects has been to makes the Rules more user friendly rather than to enact substantive changes.

Here is a link to the initial report on the project from 2009. Thereafter, the Committee  released its Preliminary Draft of Proposed Style Revision of the Federal Rules of Evidence for public comment. The public comment period for this draft ended on February 16, 2010, with the following comments being submitted. Now, on April 26th, after a few minor changes, the Supreme Court adopted the latest version of the restyled Evidence Rules and sent them to Congress. The new Rules are set to take effect on December 1, 2011, unless Congress acts otherwise. Daniel Capra, the Reed Professor of Law at the Fordham University School of Law and the Reporter for the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Evidence, sent me a copy of the latest version of the Rules, which you can download here in three parts (Download Restyled Rules 101-415, Download Restyled Rules 501-706, Download Restyled Rules 801-1103)

As you can see, what the Committee has done for each restyled Rule is to have a side-by-side comparison of the old Rule and the new Rule, followed by a Committee note explaining the reason(s) for the restyling. For instance, here is the comparison for Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b):

Rule 606. Competency of Juror as Witness

Rule 606.  Juror’s Competency as a Witness

 

 (a) At the trial.  A member of the jury may not testify as a witness before that jury in the trial of the case in which the juror is sitting. If the juror is called so to testify, the opposing party shall be afforded an opportunity to object out of the presence of the jury.

 

 

(a)       At the Trial.  A juror may not testify as a witness before the other jurors at the trial.  If a juror is called to testify, the court must give a party an opportunity to object outside the jury’s presence.

 

 

 (b) Inquiry into validity of verdict or indictment.  Upon an inquiry into the validity of a verdict or indictment, a juror may not testify as to any matter or statement occurring during the course of the jury’s deliberations or to the effect of anything upon that or any other juror’s mind or emotions as influencing the juror to assent to or dissent from the verdict or indictment or concerning the juror’s mental processes in connection therewith. But a juror may testify about (1) whether extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury’s attention, (2) whether any outside influence was improperly brought to bear upon any juror, or (3) whether there was a mistake in entering the verdict onto the verdict form. A juror’s affidavit or evidence of any statement by the juror may not be received on a matter about which the juror would be precluded from testifying.

 

 

(b)       During an Inquiry into the Validity of a Verdict or Indictment.

 

(1)       Prohibited Testimony or Other Evidence.  During an inquiry into the validity of a verdict or indictment, a juror may not testify about any statement made or incident that occurred during the jury’s deliberations; the effect of anything on that juror’s or another juror’s vote; or any juror’s mental processes concerning the verdict or indictment.  The court may not receive a juror’s affidavit or evidence of a juror’s statement on these matters.

 

(2)       ExceptionsA juror may testify about whether:

 

(A)      extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury’s attention;

 

(B)      an outside influence was improperly brought to bear on any juror; or

 

(C)      a mistake was made in entering the verdict on the verdict form.

 

 Committee Note

The language of Rule 606 has been amended as part of the restyling of the Evidence Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules.  These changes are intended to be stylistic only.  There is no intent to change any result in any ruling on evidence admissibility.

________________________________________________________________________________________ 

I would like to thank the Committee and all of those involved with restyling the Rules for all of their terrific work on the restyling project. That project has already garnered two awards: (1) the 2011 Burton "Reform in Law" Award, and (2) the 2011 Clearmark Award, given by the Center for Plain Language.

I will be doing some posts in the coming months about the restyled Rules, and, as noted previouslyKatharine Traylor Schaffzin will be guest blogging here about the project soon before the restyled Rules are set to take effect.

-CM

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