NEW ILLINOIS RULES OF EVIDENCE EFFECTIVE JANUARY 1, 2011

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While there will obviously continue to be ample debate over the introduction and exclusion of evidence in Illinois, the time and energy devoted (or wasted) on argument over correctly identifying the applicable Illinois evidentiary rule should be greatly reduced. The new IRE should afford the practitioner efficiencies in adequately preparing for evidentiary issues before trial, as well as expediting the resolution of evidentiary issues during trial. The Special Committee performed a tremendous unpaid service to the bench, bar, and citizens of the State of Illinois in creating the new Illinois Rules of Evidence.

In November of 2008, then Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald appointed a Special Committee on Illinois Evidence and charged that committee with codifying Illinois’ Rules of Evidence. The nineteen member Special Committee was chaired by Illinois Appellate Court Justice Donald C. Hudson, and was comprised of leading Illinois jurists, legal scholars, legislative representatives, and distinguished members of the Illinois bar. The committee’s purpose was to codify existing Illinois evidence law, not change the law. Before the committee began its work, Illinois was one of only six states that had not adopted rules of evidence. Up to this point, the Illinois rules of evidence were scattered throughout case law, statutes, and the Illinois Supreme Court rules. The goal of the two year effort by the Special Committee was to streamline, simplify, and expedite the resolution of evidentiary issues at trial. Further, Justice Fitzgerald believed that adopting a set of rules of evidence in Illinois would provide clarity and predictability during trials, as well as more uniform application of evidentiary rulings throughout the state. The structure and organization of the IRE was patterned after the Federal Rules of Evidence. While in many cases the Illinois rules are the same or similar to the Federal rules, the intention of the committee was not to mirror the Federal rules, but rather to codify the existing body of Illinois evidentiary law. The committee decided that it was logical to follow the time-tested organizational structure of the Federal Rules of Evidence, as had all the other forty-four states that had adopted their own state rules of evidence.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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