This course covers the standard materials relating to the courtroom demonstration of facts at issue in civil and criminal actions. Major emphasis is placed upon the central concepts of "relevance" and "prejudice," and detailed consideration is accorded to the rule against hearsay and its myriad exceptions. In addition, the course treats problems of character, credibility and the impeachment of witnesses, privileges, and presumptions, as well as evidence from experts, documents, and demonstrations. Focus is on the Federal Rules of Evidence, their ambiguities and common and reasonable interpretations. The course employs the "problem method" rather than the usual "case method." Doctrine and practice are discussed in class in the situations presented by the problems.
The theme of the course is distinctly pragmatic; the rules of evidence are assimilated from the litigator's perspective. The object is to sharpen the student's perception of the allowable forms of proof and quicken his or her responses in summoning the appropriate theory for admission or rejection of an evidentiary offer. While relatively few lawyers find themselves practicing in courts, this course attempts to make those who do comfortable and conversant in the language of the courtroom. At the same time, evidence is the lingua franca of the profession and embodies the way lawyers think about proof.