Restyled Texas Rules of Evidence

On November 19, the Texas Supreme Court issued an advisory, to inform the Bar, the judiciary, and the public of an order approving the restyled Texas Rules of Evidence. The Court’s advisory is reproduced at the bottom of this post. Click here to read the Court’s order and view the new rules.The Court embarked on this rewrite to essentially conform the Texas Rules of Evidence with the Federal Rules of Evidence, which were restyled in 2011. The restyling also modernizes the verbiage and makes the rules more readable and understandable. With only two exceptions, the Court intends that the changes to the rules be nonsubstantive.The restyled rules will take effect on 4/1/15. In the meantime, persons wishing to comment on the new rules have until 2/28/15 to submit comments to the Court’s rules attorney, Martha Newton, at rulescomments@txcourts.gov.– Scott Stolley, Thompson & Knight Texas Supreme Court advisoryContact: Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information512.463.1441 or click for emailWednesday, November 19, 2014COURT APPROVES RESTYLED TEXAS EVIDENCE RULESComment period begins on changes to make the rules easier to useThe Texas Supreme Court has adopted revised evidence rules intended essentially to mirror the recently restyled Federal Rules of Evidence and, as with the federal rules, to make them easier to read and use.The Court’s adoption triggers a comment period that ends February 28, 2015. Final approval of the restyled rules will be effective April 1, 2015.“With clearer language and a better format, the rules of evidence should be much easier for trial lawyers and judges to use,” Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht said. “The many people who worked on this project built on the restyled federal rules, adapted them to Texas but with the objective of keeping our rules as consistent as possible with the federal rules and without changing Texas evidence law.”In its order approving the revised evidence rules, the Court explained that rules numbers did not change, but new formatting includes indented subparagraphs, establishing vertical rather than horizontal lists in the rules for clear presentation. Changes also strike inconsistent, ambiguous, redundant, repetitive or archaic words.The order also notes: “The restyled rules minimize the use of redundant ‘intensifiers.’ These are expressions that attempt to add emphasis, but instead state the obvious and create negative implications for other rules. The absence of intensifiers in the restyled rules does not change their substantive meaning.”In two rules substantive changes have been made:¶ Amendments to Rule 511 align Texas law with Federal Rule of Evidence 502 on waiving privilege by voluntary disclosure.¶ Amendments to Rule 613 retain the requirement that a witness be given an opportunity to explain or deny (a) a prior inconsistent statement or (b) circumstances or a statement showing bias or interest, but the requirement is no longer part of the foundation that an examining attorney must lay before introducing extrinsic evidence of the statement or its circumstances.Martha Newton, the Court’s rules attorney who shepherded the project, credited law Professor Steven Goode, a noted evidence expert at the University of Texas, for drafting the rules changes with assistance from the State Bar’s Administration of Rules of Evidence Committee and the Supreme Court Advisory Committee. The combined effort drew seasoned trial lawyers and judges in several drafting and reviewing stages.“Their product was exceptional,” Newton said, “and the product of several years of hard work.”The Texas restyling project began after revisions to the federal rules were completed in 2011 and approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. Two federal district judges from Texas, Sidney A. Fitzwater of Dallas and Lee H. Rosenthal of Houston, led U.S. Judicial Conference committees working on the federal rules.Changes to Rule 902(10), approved August 19, 2014, included restyling changes. The Court’s order does not make further changes to that rule.