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Tips from the Bench: A Beginner's Packet to Trial Evidence

Updated: Jan 23, 2021

First and foremost, my #1 tip for the rules of evidence is to find a mentor who knows more than you and has practiced longer. They can teach you things you never thought of both academically and practically (i.e., Justice Few, Judge Childs, Judge Hill, Justice James, and plenty more).

I recently put this together for a friend - it is a compilation of some blog posts that give a general view of the rules of evidence plus some miscellaneous ones that often arise in court:

Blog Posts

First, this is the 15/90 rule I use.  Instead of trying to know all of the rules, I just focus on the ones that we actually use most of the time:

With those rules in mind, I would read this story I created to give you a practical/common sense idea of how they work:

Next, I try and think about how these rules would actually come up in a trial.  And that is usually through an objection:

Some miscellaneous blog posts about chain of custody, motions in limine, open door doctrine, and demonstrative evidence vs. substantive evidence:

Recent SC Supreme Court Cases

I recently wrote an article in the SC Lawyer about the most recent Supreme Court cases on evidence over the past year.  Here is the article, and if you want to go read the actual cases, they are cited:

There aren't that many new cases that changed the rules of evidence over the past couple of years, but I would say these would be the biggest (some of them are included in the SC Lawyer Article):

Expert Testimony

Rule 404(b) (three cases came out the same day in May 2020)

A Bird’s Eye View of all the Rules

This isn’t scientific, and was hastily put together, but I suggest going through the rules and writing a note to yourself on how you interpret them in a very simple way.


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