The Law School Magazine  ·  In Print 2009 : Departments

Learning Evidence: From the Federal Rules to the Courtroom

By - Fall 2009
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Two Moritz evidence professors, Deborah Jones Merritt and Ric Simmons, have released a new evidence casebook, published by West Academic Publishing in 2009, that is expected to be an important entrant to West’s American Casebook Series. However, the “casebook” label is a misnomer: This is a casebook without cases.

The book represents a new pedagogic approach to teaching traditional upper-level law classes, and West has expressed interest in creating a series of books based on this innovation. Rather than asking students to extract principles from lengthy case excerpts, the text teaches those principles through textual discussion, focused  analysis of the rules, and concrete examples drawn from cases.

“The case method looks to the past,” Merritt explained. “It asks students to trace the evolution of settled issues and spot open spots in the law. Upper-level students are ready to shift their focus to the future. By helping students master settled principles more efficiently, the book allows them to concentrate on the work lawyers do: applying those principles to client problems and future cases.”

The text guides students through each rule, mapping complex provisions with flow charts or tables. It also offers colorful examples based on real cases, concise analyses, and excerpts of trial transcripts. The book is very user-friendly, making ample use of icons, shading, and boldface that maintain visual interest and consistently highlight such features as “key concepts,” “quick summary,” “open questions,” and fact-dependent rules.

Merritt is the John Deaver Drinko-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law at Moritz. She clerked for Judge (now Justice) Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Simmons is an associate professor of law at Moritz. After graduating from Columbia Law School, he clerked for Laughlin E. Waters, U.S. District Court, Central District of California and then spent four years as an assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s office.


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