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NCJ Number: 200189 Find in a Library
Title: Rethinking the Rules of Evidentiary Admissibility in Non-Jury Trials
Journal: Judicature  Volume:86  Issue:5  Dated:March-April 2003  Pages:227-231
Author(s): John Sheldon; Peter Murray
Date Published: March 2003
Page Count: 5
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article argues for the elimination of the rules of evidentiary admissibility in civil, non-jury proceedings.
Abstract: Anglo-American evidence law is distinctive for its concept of "admissibility." This concept was developed at common law because there was no way for any legal authority to monitor or direct the autonomous and secret deliberations of the jury. As a means of controlling the quality and ensuring the legitimacy of jury verdicts, the common law determined to screen the evidence that juries would be allowed to hear and evaluate. The rationale was that lay jurors should be prevented from being exposed to information that might prejudice them against a party or distract them from the core issues of the case or cause them to arrive at verdicts based on unreliable or otherwise questionable evidence. In 1964 Professor Kenneth Culp Davis argued that because the vast majority of trials across the United States occur without juries, application of rules of admissibility to all trials causes time-consuming courtroom wrangling that is useful in only a small minority of cases. Use of rules of evidentiary admissibility in civil, non-jury cases continues due to the large number of litigants who argue their cases without attorneys, the reluctance of attorneys and law schools to discard a body of complex knowledge of evidence admissibility that requires their services and that has been a traditional component of law school education, and the reluctance to and the difficulty of change. This article includes suggestions for simplifying the rules of evidence in civil, non-jury cases to accommodate litigants who do not have attorneys.
Main Term(s): Court reform
Index Term(s): Civil proceedings; Judges; Pro se defense; Rules of evidence; Trial procedures
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