Most bright middle school students probably have a working knowledge of the concept of hearsay, simply as gossip.  “He said she said” does not mean the statement is true.

Hearsay as a legal rather than merely social concept is part of the law of evidence. The Georgia rule on hearsay will change on January 1st, when the new Evidence Code becomes law.

The new Georgia Evidence Code, based more or less on the Federal Rules of Evidence, will go into effect on January 1, 2013. The new Evidence Code was a long-time project of the State Bar. Sponsored

Today, after 25 years of labor by countless volunteers on a succession of hard-working bar committees, the new Georgia Evidence Code was passed.  Unless I’m in court somewhere, I expect to be present when it is signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal. Appropriately enough, he sponsored an earlier version of the bill in the State Senate in 1990.

The new Evidence Code replaces a hodgepodge of case law largely derived from the Code of 1863. It is based upon the Federal Rules of Evidence which were enacted in 1975 and have been adopted in some form in 42 states including all states contiguous to Georgia.

The politics of this has been fascinating and totally inappropriate for me to detail in a blog post.

Kudos to House Judiciary Committee Chair Wendell Willard and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Bill Hamrick, a heavy majority in both houses of the legislature, and current State Bar President Lester Tate, who carried the ball over the goal line despite a pair of last minute "poison pill" amendments. Georgia State Law School professor Paul Milich, who has served many years as Reporter of the Evidence Study Committee, has done much of the heavy lifting and deserves credit. I would be remiss to overlook the roles played by Ray Persons and Tom Byrne as chairs of the Evidence Study Committee and by nearly every State Bar president since the late 1980s.

Of course there are those of us who are happy to practice law with or without the new evidence code, and some who late in their careers don’t want to learn anything new. However, it is based upon the Federal Rules of Evidence which nearly all lawyers under 60 studied in law school. With its incorporation of several features unique to Georgia law, I think it is an improvement upon both the hodgepodge of Georgia evidence law and the Federal Rules of Evidence. All in all, it is a net gain for the justice system in Georgia.

Click here for Professor Milich’s summary of the new Evidence Code.