Federal Rules of Evidence

In a lawsuit, both the plaintiff (the party suing) and the defendant (the party being sued) introduce evidence during the trial. Evidence refers to something submitted to the court to prove or disprove the truth of a factual matter being considered by the court. A case is decided using the evidence made available to the court.

Purpose and Construction of Federal Rules of Evidence
The goals of the Federal Rules of Evidence are to ascertain the truth and provide just determinations of legal disputes. The Federal Rules are to be construed to assure fairness in the administration of justice, reduce expenses, and eliminate delay.

Admissibility of Evidence
The Federal Rules of Evidence are the rules by which courts determine what evidence is admissible at federal court proceedings. There are four types of evidence: real (for example, a written contract in a civil trial or a murder weapon in a criminal trial), demonstrative (such as exhibits, photographs, maps), documentary (public records or other writings), and testimonial (a witness’s testimony at trial). The Federal Rules control what evidence can be admitted at trial. Generally, all evidence that is relevant (tends to prove or disprove the factual matter at issue) is admissible at trial.

Witness Testimony
The Federal Rules specify the proper form of examining and cross-examining a witness. The rules also provide for the testimony of expert witnesses.

Evidentiary Privileges
The Federal Rules of Evidence cover matters such as evidentiary privileges. An evidentiary privilege provides that a confidential communication made by a person in a protected relationship (such as a client to an attorney or a husband to a wife) does not have to be revealed in a lawsuit.

Hearsay
As a general rule, a statement made by a person out of court, which is being repeated by another person in court to prove the truth of the statement, is hearsay and will not be admitted by the judge. Such statements are considered unreliable because they are secondhand. There are various exceptions to the general rule that hearsay evidence is not admissible. The following are some exceptions to the rule against hearsay: dying declarations, declarations against interest, business records, spontaneous statements, certain public records, and prior testimony from a trial or deposition.

Burden of Proof and Burden of Persuasion
Other key provisions of the Federal Rules cover which party has the burden of proof or burden of producing evidence on a particular matter. The rules also specify which party has the burden of persuading the court or jury.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.