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University of Iowa School of Law
Tomkovicz, James Joseph "Jim"


Chapter One Introduction

Law of evidence – prescribes the rules for how and what kinds of evidence parties may use to defend against/prove a claim.

Criminal and civil cases typically use the same rules

These rules promote settlement — need to know what the prospects are if you don’t settle
· Whether you can prove your case (by introducing certain kinds of evidence, based on what the rules allow)
· “Truth, Justice and the American Way”
· Rules are designed primarily to find the truth
· Fair outcomes by fair process (Justice)
· Promote the jury system, the rules of privacy, safety
· Successful claims under substantive law depend on these rules — what these rules allow/don’t allow

American Law is influenced by:
· It’s adversarial (depends on the parties bringing it forward)
· It’s public (rarely is it closed proceedings)
· A system of limited resources (have to cut it off somewhere)
· Relies on lay-person fact finders (jurors)

Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE):
· First time that evidence law became predominantly statutory
· Meant to be a comprehensive guide, but there are gaps (some on purpose, like privilege)

In limine: motions before the trial
· To see what evidence will be admissible or inadmissible BEFORE trial (more efficient)

Lawyers for the parties exercise enormous control over the way the trial is conducted (witness selection, order, evidence, questions, whether to object)

Rule 104(a): Preliminary Questions (Role of the Trial Judge)
· Gives judge authority over preliminary questions concerning qualifications of a person to be a witness
· Expert witnesses (need qualifications)
· Authority over any other basis for whether evidence is/isn’t admissibile
· What does that rule mean?
· Does the rule apply to this evidence?
· It’s a fact question, but it determines the admissibility of evidence, so it goes to a judge
· Why does this go to a judge?
· Would be very distracting for the jury and take a lot of time — might have to see the evidence itself, also (would prejudice them)
· Judge can ignore all the rules of evidence, except for privilege, to determine whether that evidence is admissible:
· Rules of privilege serve different purposes than the other rules (they are contrary to the truth — serving other societal goals)

Role/Responsibility of Trial Judge — 104(a):

Deciding “questions” (including fact questions) re: qualifications of witness, privilege, Admissibility of evidence

In making, not bound by FRE, except Privileges

Role/Responsibility of Counsel — 103(a)

FRE 103(a)(1): Rulings on Evidence:

Error may NOT be predicated upon a ruling (cannot complain it was error on the part of the TJ)

Which ADMITS…evidence unless…


Eg: defamation — truth is a defense here, so evidence that it was true is relevant

FRE 401 — Definition of “Relevant Evidence”



Does not have to prove exclusively, just has to provide some tendency
Weight/sufficiency is something entirely separate from this

To make the existence of ANY FACT OF CONSEQUENCE to the determination of the action

This is the evidence of materiality — look to the law to see if it matters to that offense

MORE PROBABLY OR LESS PROBABLE than it would be w/out the evidence

Logical Relevance: this depends on whether the evidence makes it MORE PROBABLE or LESS PROBABLE that it would be w/out the evidence

This comes from general logic and general experience
This is where the difficult questions can come in