The 2011 term of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit did not signal any new trends in the interpretation and application of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which comes as no surprise given that the Rules have been in effect since 1975. The 2011 term, however, did include a case of first impression for the court and several cases applying well-established law to new and unique factual scenarios. Several of these cases resulted in unpublished opinions bearing no precedential weight but, nevertheless, offering guidance to the practitioner in future cases.
While the admissibility of hearsay testimony was not the subject of any groundbreaking decisions this past year, arguably the year's biggest evidence blockbuster concerned the Confrontation Clause, in which the en banc court construed a defendant's right to probe a witness's bias. The court addressed the admissibility of lay opinion testimony under Rule 701 in several cases, including two involving convictions for materially aiding terrorist plots, two involving mortgage fraud, and one involving the testimony of a plaintiffs physicians in a product liability action. Although issues relating to the admissibility of expert opinion testimony under Rule 7026 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. were less prominent on the circuit's docket than in years past, the court did address such issues in two tort cases. As always, Rule 403's balancing of probative value and potential prejudice was a frequent source of dispute in cases before the Eleventh Circuit this past year. Less commonly invoked evidentiary rules, ranging from authentication requirements to juror misconduct, also consumed the court's attention in 2011, particularly in two high-profile cases involving a former Alabama governor and actor Wesley Snipes.
Bassett, W. Randall; Drake, Geoffrey M.; and Kitchens, Madison H.
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 63:
4, Article 7.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol63/iss4/7