Law 682:  Evidence

This course examines the principles that regulate the process of proving facts at trial. Until recent years, the regulating rules were found in the traditions of the common law. Many jurisdictions now codify the law of evidence, and consequently the course involves extensive work with a modern code known as the Federal Rules of Evidence.

Although coverage and sequence vary among the different sections, generally the course begins with an examination of relevancy, and with the limitations upon the receipt of relevant evidence, which are imposed for purely practical reasons or for reasons of extrinsic policy. The limitations include, for example, rules about the admissibility of character evidence and rape shield laws. The course then examines in great detail the Hearsay Doctrine, with consideration of its constitutional underpinnings in criminal cases. Also considered at some length are the more important exceptions to the Doctrine, which permit receipt of hearsay evidence that is considered for one reason or another to be reliable or essential. The course also examines the competency of witness and the process of testing witness credibility, taking up cross-examination and the detailed and complex rules that permit and also restrict impeachment.

The course typically also considers certain aspects of the adversary process that allocate the burdens of production and persuasion or obviate the need for proof. These include judicial notice, presumptions, and the conventions and constitutional doctrines that allocate burdens of persuasion in criminal cases.

Finally, the course considers the presentation of expert testimony and scientific evidence, authentication of documents and other physical evidence, and the Best Evidence Doctrine. Some sections of the course also take up briefly the subject of privileges, especially the ones governing the attorney-client and spousal relationships. Some sections include a brief study of the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination as well.

Three vs Four Credit Hour Offering:  In some semesters a four (4) credit hour evidence section may be offered.  The four hour version mainly differs from the three hour version in offering a full discussion of evidentiary privileges (like psychotherapist-patient, attorney-client, and journalist-source), and civil burdens of proof. Please consult the current course schedule to determine if a four credit hour Evidence section will be offered for the semester.

Sequence and Prerequisite: None. Evidence is a prerequisite for several upper-level courses.

Evaluation: Administered Final Examination.

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