On March 18th, Pennsylvania will adopt a newer, restyled Rules of Evidence. The current rules were adopted in 1998 and were modeled after the Federal Rules of Evidence at the time. But in 2011 the Federal Rules of Evidence were restyled to be easier to read, and Pennsylvania’s new Rules have been created to mimic the new Federal Rules. The restyled Rules were made available online on January 17th and can be viewed here.
There are no major changes in the restyled Rules…rather, many sections have been reworded to be clearer and easier to understand, and many errors in grammar, citations, spacing, and alignment have been fixed.
There are over 60 instances in the current Rules where the comments say that they are identical to the Federal Rules, where in fact they differ. Take Rule 611(a) and its comments for example (Current Rules are on the left; Federal and Restyled Rules are on the right):
Notice that the current Rule is not identical to the Federal Rule. Also notice that much of the comment has been removed. According to the Committee on Rules of Evidence, the authors of the new rules, the reason for this is that “the Rules have been in existence now for more than fourteen years and have been incorporated into judicial proceedings and practice.” There are, however, still many Rules with lengthy Comment sections. Finally, notice that the organization and alignment of the Rules differ.
For another example of the changes, see Rule 201:
Attorneys should be aware of the fact that the Rules themselves have not changed, just the wording of them. To view the current and restyled Rules side-by-side, click here.