The common law Rule of Completeness served an important role in Anglo-American jurisprudence for centuries. Historically, it was a rule guided by principles of fundamental fairness and was designed to prevent parties from introducing incomplete and misleading statements at trial.
What was once a simple rule has been muddled by Federal Rule of Evidence 106. The common law rule language was lost when Rule 106 was drafted, and there is no agreement as to what portion of the common law survived and what was left behind. Particularly problematic are the issues of whether Rule 106 applies to oral as well as written statements, and whether Rule 106 allows a court to admit otherwise inadmissible evidence. The federal and state courts are split on these issues, and the United States Supreme Court has failed to provide guidance.
This Article critically examines current Rule of Completeness jurisprudence. It compares and contrasts the common law with Rule 106, and then dives deeply into the disparate interpretations of the Rule. By using two recent Utah Supreme Court decisions as case studies, the Article highlights the confusion caused by the incomplete understanding of the Rule and demonstrates the unfairness that occurs when the Rule is read too narrowly. Finally, it recommends that the Federal Rules of Evidence Advisory Committee fill the leadership void in this area of Evidence law and draft an expanded Federal Rule of Evidence 106.
Heiny, Louisa and Nuvan, Emily, "The Incomplete Rule of Completeness: Taking a Stand on Federal Rule of Evidence 106" (2020). Utah Law Faculty Scholarship. 202.