Author/self-publisher Maurice Baggiano offers THE FEDERAL RULES OF EVIDENCE, DECONSTRUCTED, as a user-friendly guide/deskbook for the practicing lawyer who needs a clear and simple elocution and elaboration of the Federal Rules. The problem is that DECONSTRUCTED is too simplified and is organized in a way many lawyers might find difficult to maneuver.
Let’s start with organization. Baggiano uses words and phrases – child molestation; burial markers; employees/employment relationship; portraits – as the entryway to rules. In other words, if you have a case with a burial marker [a.k.a. gravestone] and turn to that page you will find a reference to the hearsay exception for “family records,” 803(13). The inutility is apparent – if your case involves an urn, or a cemetery monument, you might not think “burial marker.”
More important than the organization is the over-simplification, which has the risk of misleading. When Baggiano discusses Rule 414 under the heading “child molestation” he omits what caselaw has made clear – that at least some scrutiny of “other acts” evidence is permitted under Rule 403. When discussing declarations against interest, there is no acknowledgment that a statement that implicates a declarant and a third party must omit the third party conduct when introduced under Rule 804. And when explaining the role of character in assessing the veracity of a witness under Rule 608 he omits the critical point that evidence of truthful character is admissible only after proof of untruthful character has been adduced. In the over-simplified version, “[e]vidence of a witness’ character may be admitted under Rules 607, 608, and 609 [Rule 404(a)(3)]…” And, technically, 607 makes no mention of “character” but just addresses the right of any party to impeach any witness.
I strongly endorse clarity and plain English explanations – but when they are over-simplifications and replete with omissions, they offer little help. Evidence was over-deconstructed here.