TO: Joint Procedure Committee
FROM: Mike Hagburg
DATE: April 5, 2012
RE: Rule 601, N.D.R.Ev., Competency to Testify in General
Form and style amendments to Rule 601 consistent with the 2011 federal amendments are proposed. The amendments are not intended to change any result in any ruling on evidence admissibility.
The federal rule contains a sentence the N.D. rule does not: " But in a civil case, state law governs the witness's competency regarding a claim or defense for which state law supplies the rule of decision." This language was added to account for the "Dead Man Statutes" that existed in some states, including North Dakota. The Committee and the Court decided that the N.D. "Dead Man Statutes" should be superseded by the evidence rules, so the additional federal language is not needed.
A "Dead Man Statute" is designed to prevent perjury in a civil case by prohibiting a witness who is an interested party from testifying about communications or transactions with a decedent against the decedent's estate.