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Survey Article


The biggest story in Georgia Evidence law this year is undoubtedly the Georgia General Assembly's decision to align Georgia's evidence code with the Federal Rules of Evidence. Proponents of House Bill 24 describe the former rules, many of which have been on the books for more than 150 years, as archaic and inconsistent. Paul S. Milich, professor of law at Georgia State University College of Law and the reporter for the State Bar of Georgia committee that proposed the new rules of evidence for Georgia, described the way the outdated rules impeded the modern practice of law in Georgia: "Our 19th-century evidence rules do not fit the 21st century very well. Phones did not exist when Georgia's evidence code was written in 1860, let alone cars, videos, computers, or even Facebook." With this change, Georgia joins forty-three other states that have adopted the Federal Rules of Evidence, including all states bordering Georgia. Attorneys practicing in Georgia may have some studying to do to become familiar with the new code; however, the Bill's supporters argue that this should not be a problem since many attorneys have experience in federal court or remember some of the rules from their law school days.

These changes represent the culmination of a twenty-year struggle to conform Georgia's code to the Federal Rules of Evidence, which began when Governor Nathan Deal, then leader of the Senate, carried the proposed changes to a unanimous vote in the Senate, only to be defeated in the House. Because the new legislation becomes effective January 1, 2013, it does not affect cases that are surveyed in this article, which were decided from June 1, 2010 to May 31, 2011. However, judges have already started to take note of the forthcoming changes.

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