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The Importance of the Advisory Committee Notes

June 30, 2011

Well, the blogging has been slow, but get ready for much more soon.  Here’s a little tidbit to help us understand the Federal Rules of Evidence:

Read the Advisory Committee Notes!

In one of our reading selections for today, Tome v. United States, 513 U.S. 150 (1995), the Supreme Court tells us why:

Our conclusion that Rule 801(d)(1)(B) embodies the common-law premotive requirement is confirmed by an examination of the Advisory Committee’s Notes to the Federal Rules of Evidence. We have relied on those well-considered Notes as a useful guide in ascertaining the meaning of the Rules.  (citations omitted).  Where, as with Rule 801(d)(1)(B), “Congress did not amend the Advisory Committee’s draft in any way … the Committee’s commentary is particularly relevant in determining the meaning of the document Congress enacted.”  (citation omitted).  The Notes are also a respected source of scholarly commentary. Professor Cleary was a distinguished commentator on the law of evidence, and he and members of the Committee consulted and considered the views, criticisms, and suggestions of the academic community in preparing the Notes.

513 U.S. at 160.

As you prepare for the exam, and for the evidence struggles you will face throughout your career, study these Notes for a deeper comprehension of the Rules, and a better chance to win.  Remember that you can access the Notes on the Cornell University Law School website, which maintains a current version of the Rules with a link to the applicable Note at the end of each rule. 

If you want to learn more about the Advisory Committee, read Federal Rules of Evidence Advisory Committee: A Short History of Too Little Consequence, 191 F.R.D. 678 (2000).

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