Professor Jeffrey Bellin has joined the ranks of authors on the prestigious Federal Practice and Procedure treatise published by Thomson Reuters. The treatise, commonly identified by the names of its original authors, "Wright & Miller," is regularly relied on by courts, practitioners, and scholars alike.
In a tribute to one of those authors, Charles Alan Wright, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg praised Federal Practice and Procedure as follows:
[Wright], and the excellent co-authors he has attracted to compose and maintain the over fifty-volume treatise, daily affect the substance and style of federal judging and judgments across the country. Federal Practice and Procedure is by far the most-cited treatise in the United States Reports; it has been called the procedural Bible for federal judges and those who practice in our federal courts.1
Bellin's contribution is an entirely new volume, Volume 30B, covering the federal hearsay rules. Thomson Reuters published the volume in October 2017, replacing a previous two-volume ("interim") treatment of the topic. Bellin is the volume's sole author, although it is styled "Wright and Bellin" to parallel the other treatise volumes, and pay tribute to the treatise's co-founder, who passed away in 2000. "Wright and Bellin" on hearsay is now available in law libraries across the country and through online legal research services like Westlaw.
Part of what attracted Bellin to the multi-year project is the notoriously-challenging task of clarifying hearsay doctrine. As he explains in the preface to the volume, "Hearsay is commonly viewed as the most difficult topic in the rules of evidence, and one of the most perplexing in all of law." It is, in short, an area where a successful treatise volume can be particularly impactful.
Bellin provides an overview of his approach to the project in a preface to the volume.
The complexity of the topic requires precision, close attention to the text of the rules, and a firm grasp of the big picture. When the Seventh Circuit states: 'A vast literature attempts to explain the complex edifice of American hearsay law' - the key word is 'attempts.' Lots of people talk about hearsay. Judicial opinions are replete with efforts to interpret the doctrine. But too much of what is said is wrong or incomplete. With every imprecise description and incorrect statement, the problem worsens. It is not enough for a treatise on hearsay to simply report what all these voices are saying. The key for a treatise author is to summarize the law on the ground, while paring back the weeds that rise up, or at least pointing out their unsightly appearance.
The discussion that follows attempts to add value by precisely describing the 'complex edifice' of the federal hearsay rules. It does not shy away from the most difficult areas of hearsay doctrine and it resists the urge to simply point out grey areas and move on. Courts and attorneys operate in the real world where hearsay objections must be either sustained or overruled. The real world requires answers not merely criticism of those who are required to give those answers.
1 Ruth Bader Ginsburg, In Celebration of Charles Alan Wright, 76 Tex. L. Rev. 1581, 1583 (1998).
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