Vanderbilt Law Review

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A Symposium focusing on Reimagining the Rules of Evidence at 50 makes one turn to the federal rule that governs one's designated topic--prior conviction impeachment--and think about how that rule could be altered. Part I of this Article does just that, drawing inspiration from state models to propose ways in which the multiple criticisms of the existing federal rule might be addressed. But recent scholarship by Alice Ristroph, focusing on ways in which criminal law scholars talk to their students about "the rules," gives one pause. Ristroph identifies a pedagogical tendency to erase the many humans who turn rules into actions-and indeed life- changing or life-ending actions. With a narrow focus on the rules, as opposed to their enablers and enforcers, we not only miss potential reform opportunities but also potentially obscure behaviors that we may want to scrutinize. Thus, Part II develops proposals for how the behavior of relevant decisionmakers, such as prosecutors and judges, might usefully change-whether or not the language of the rule does. Abolitionists have highlighted the complications of offering criminal or evidentiary reform proposals. Some reforms, they point out, may sanitize and entrench the broader system. Abolitionism has started to enter the evidentiary law review landscape, and this Article embarks upon the project of looking afresh at a critical evidentiary agenda with the aid of abolitionist insights. Accordingly, Part III considers the implications that reforms in this area of evidence law might have for the broader criminal system. It does so by drawing on four insights from abolitionist literature and exploring their implications in the prior conviction impeachment context.