Federal Rules Get a Makeover

Bellbottoms are out; cuffs are in.  Robert Frost is out; Philip Levine is in.

So too with the Federal Rules.

The Federal Rules of Evidence have been “restyled.” Yesterday, the new, restyled Federal Rules of Evidence went into effect.

A PDF of the new rules is available at several places on the web, including the Federal Evidence Review website, which also has also links to the legislative history and guiding principles for this restyling.   The Legal Information Institute (LII) at Cornell Law School helpfully has posted ebooks, as ePub or mobi files, of the restyled Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence.

The legislative history of the restyled Evidence Rules 101-1103 make clear that the changes were designed to make the rules simpler, more readable and understandable, without changing their substantive meaning.  Was this effort worth the time and money?

The rules on expert witness opinion testimony are my particular interest.

Rule 703. Bases of an Expert’s Opinion Testimony

An expert may base an opinion on facts or data in the case that the expert has been made aware of or personally observed. If experts in the particular field would reasonably rely on those kinds of facts or data in forming an opinion on the subject, they need not be admissible for the opinion to be admitted. But if the facts or data would otherwise be inadmissible, the proponent of the opinion may disclose them to the jury only if their probative value in helping the jury evaluate the opinion substantially outweighs their prejudicial effect.

(Legislative History: Pub. L. 93-595, Jan. 2, 1975; Mar. 2, 1987, eff. Oct. 1, 1987; Apr. 17, 2000, eff. Dec. 1, 2000; Apr. 26, 2011, eff. Dec. 1, 2011.)

The rule specifies what happens “[i]f experts in the particular field would reasonably rely on those kinds of facts or data in forming an opinion on the subject,” but what happens “if not“?  The common reading interpolates “only” before “if,” but Rule 703 before and after restyling misses this drafting point.

So too does Rule 702:

Rule 702. Testimony by Expert Witnesses

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:

(a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;

(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;

(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and

(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

(Legislative History: Pub. L. 93-595, Jan. 2, 1975; Apr. 17, 2000, eff. Dec. 1, 2000; Apr. 26, 2011, eff. Dec. 1, 2011.)

And if not?

The enumeration of (a) through (d) in Rule 702, however, is an improvement for reading and comprehension, especially with the conjunction connecting the last member of the series.

I suppose at age 36, everyone is entitled to a makeover.

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