Hooray for the Federal Rules of Evidence!

The Federal Rules of Evidence used in the federal courts of the United States and adopted by many states and the military are the codification of many years of common law rules of evidence. The development of modern rules of evidence has been a process of nothing more than putting old wine into new bottles. If one can understand common law notions of evidence, the Federal Rules will be easy to understand.

The purpose of the Federal Rules of Evidence is to ensure fairness in the administration of trials; eliminate unjustifiable expenses and delays; and promote the growth and development of evidentiary law so that the truth is ascertained and the process is determined with justice. As a former trial attorney and current law school professor teaching the rules of evidence to students, I view the Federal Rules of Evidence, adopted by Congress in 1975, as a masterpiece of putting the old common law wine into a new bottle. I have used the Federal Rules of Evidence throughout my career.

This article is not about any specific common law rules or rules that may have been included in the new bottle known as the Federal Rule of Evidence. Instead, I write this to show how influential and widespread the use of the rules has been. Forty-four states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the military have adopted all or part of the Federal Rules for use in their judicial systems. This is a very good trend because the rules of evidence for most states will be roughly the same throughout the United States.

The following paragraphs provide essential information about jurisdictions that have adopted rules of evidence based on Federal Rules. They include information on when the local rules went into effect and when they were amended, if at all:

ALABAMA. Adopted by the Alabama Supreme Court effective January 1, 1996. No amendment.

ALASKA. Adopted by the Alaska Supreme Court as of August 1, 1979. Last modified October 15, 2003.

ARIZONA. Adopted by the Arizona Supreme Court as of September 1, 1977. Last modified June 1, 2004.

ARKANSAS. Adopted by the Arkansas Supreme Court effective October 13, 1986. Last amended January 22, 1998.

COLORADO. Adopted by the Colorado Supreme Court effective January 1, 1980. Last amended July 1, 2002.

CONNECTICUT. Adopted by the Connecticut Superior Court judges effective January 1, 2000. No amendment.

DELAWARE. Adopted by the Delaware Supreme Court effective February 1, 1980. Last amended December 10, 2001.

FLORIDA. The Florida Code of Evidence was enacted by the Florida Legislature effective July 1, 1979. Last amended July 1, 2003.

GEORGIA. Governor Nathan Deal signed a House bill that made Georgia’s rules effective on January 1, 2013. No amendments.

GUAM. Adopted by the Guam Judicial Council as of November 16, 1979. Last amended July 18, 2003.

HAWAII. Enacted by the Hawaii Legislature effective January 1, 1981. No amendment.

IDAHO. Adopted by the Idaho Supreme Court as of July 1, 1985. No amendment.

ILLINOIS. Adopted by the Illinois Supreme Court effective January 1, 2011. No amendment.

INDIANA. Adopted by the Indiana Supreme Court effective January 1, 1994. Last amended January 1, 2004.

IOWA. Adopted by the Iowa Supreme Court effective July 1, 1983. Last amended February 15, 2002.

KENTUCKY. Enacted by the Kentucky Legislature effective July 1, 1992. Last amended July 1, 2003.

LOUISIANA. Enacted by the Louisiana Legislature effective January 1, 1989. Last amended August 15, 2003.

MAINE. Adopted by the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine as of February 2, 1976. Last amended July 1, 2002.

MARYLAND. Adopted by the Maryland Court of Appeals effective July 1, 1994. Last amended January 1, 2004.

MICHIGAN. Adopted by the Michigan Supreme Court effective March 1, 1978. Last amended January 1, 2004.

MINNESOTA. Adopted by the Minnesota Supreme Court as of April 1, 1977. Last amended January 1, 1990.

MISSISSIPPI. Adopted by the Mississippi Supreme Court effective January 1, 1986. Last amended May 27, 2004.

MOUNTAIN. Adopted by the Montana Supreme Court effective July 1, 1977. Last amended October 18, 1990.

NEBRASKA. Enacted by the Nebraska Legislature effective December 31, 1975. Last amended July 13, 2000.

NEVADA. Enacted by the Nevada Legislature effective July 1, 2004. No amendment.

N.H. Adopted by the New Hampshire Supreme Court effective July 1, 1985. Last amended January 1, 2003.

NEW JERSEY. Adopted by the New Jersey Supreme Court and the New Jersey Legislature in a joint proceeding beginning July 1, 1993. Last amended July 1, 1993.

NEW MEXICO. Adopted by the New Mexico Supreme Court as of July 1, 1973. The last amendment went into effect on February 1, 2003.

NORTH CAROLINA. Enacted by the North Carolina Legislature effective July 1, 1984. Last modified October 1, 2003.

NORTH DAKOTA. Adopted by the Supreme Court of North Dakota as of February 15, 1977. Last amended March 1, 2001.

OHIO. Adopted by the Ohio Supreme Court as of July 1, 1980. Last amended July 1, 2003.

OKLAHOMA. Enacted by the Oklahoma Legislature effective October 1, 1978. Last amended November 1, 2003.

OREGON. Enacted by the Oregon Legislature effective January 1, 1982. Last amended July 3, 2003.

PENNSYLVANIA. Adopted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court effective October 1, 1998. Last amended January 1, 2002.

PUERTO RICO. Promulgated by the Legislature of Puerto Rico as of October 1, 1979. Last amended on August 30, 1999.

RHODE ISLAND. Adopted by the Rhode Island Supreme Court effective October 1, 1987. No amendment.

SOUTH CAROLINA. Enacted by the South Carolina Legislature effective September 3, 1995. No amendment.

SOUTH DAKOTA. Enacted by the South Dakota Legislature effective July 1, 1978. No amendment.

TENNESSEE. Adopted by the Tennessee Supreme Court effective January 1, 1990. Last amended July 1, 2003.

TEXAS. Adopted by the Texas Supreme Court effective March 1, 1998. No amendment.

UTAH. Adopted by the Utah Supreme Court effective September 1, 1983. Last amended November 1, 2004.

VERMONT. Adopted by the Vermont Supreme Court effective April 1, 1983. Last amended May 27, 2003.

WASHINGTON. Adopted by the Washington Supreme Court on April 2, 1979. Last amended on September 1, 2003.

WEST VIRGINIA. Adopted by the West Virginia Supreme Court effective February 1, 1985. Last amended January 1, 1995.

WISCONSIN. Adopted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court effective January 1, 1974. Last amended March 30, 2004.

WYOMING. Adopted by the Wyoming Supreme Court effective January 1, 1978. Last amended February 28, 1995.

THE MILITARY. The Military Rules of Evidence were adopted by Decree No. 12,198 of March 12, 1980. Last modified by Executive Decree No. 13,262 of April 11, 2002.

THE COMMUNITY OF THE NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS. No date of adoption was found.

THE US VIRGIN ISLANDS. No date of adoption was found.

What an impressive list of adoptions and enactments modeled after the Federal Rules of Evidence! Several jurisdictions have not adopted rules of evidence based on the Federal Rules of Evidence. They are: California, the District of Columbia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York and Virginia.