Rule 607 – Who May Impeach a Witness

Any party, including the party that called the witness, may attack the witness’s credibility.

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Evidence 607 deals with the impeachment of witnesses in court. Here’s a summary and explanation:

  1. Who May Impeach: Rule 607 establishes that any party, including the party that called the witness, has the right to attack the credibility of a witness. This is a departure from older rules that restricted a party from impeaching its own witness, except under certain circumstances.
  2. Purpose of Impeachment: Impeachment is the process of challenging the reliability, credibility, or truthfulness of a witness’s testimony. It’s a critical aspect of the adversarial process, allowing for the testing of evidence through cross-examination and other means.
  3. Methods of Impeachment: While Rule 607 allows for the impeachment of a witness, it doesn’t specify the methods by which this can be done. Other rules, such as those concerning evidence of character and conduct (e.g., Rules 608 and 609), provide details on permissible methods of impeachment.
  4. Strategic Use in Litigation: Allowing any party to impeach a witness provides flexibility in legal strategy. It recognizes that sometimes a witness may provide testimony that is unexpected or unfavorable to the party that called them, necessitating a challenge to their credibility.

Rule 607 is fundamental in ensuring that all testimonial evidence is subject to scrutiny, promoting fairness and the pursuit of truth in the legal process. By permitting any party to impeach any witness, the rule supports a dynamic and responsive trial process.


(Pub. L. 93–595, §1, Jan. 2, 1975, 88 Stat. 1934; Mar. 2, 1987, eff. Oct. 1, 1987; Apr. 26, 2011, eff. Dec. 1, 2011.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Proposed Rules

The traditional rule against impeaching one’s own witness is abandoned as based on false premises. A party does not hold out his witnesses as worthy of belief, since he rarely has a free choice in selecting them. Denial of the right leaves the party at the mercy of the witness and the adversary. If the impeachment is by a prior statement, it is free from hearsay dangers and is excluded from the category of hearsay under Rule 801(d)(1). Ladd, Impeachment of One’s Own Witness—New Developments 4 U.Chi.L.Rev. 69 (1936); McCormick §38; 3 Wigmore §§896–918. The substantial inroads into the old rule made over the years by decisions, rules, and statutes are evidence of doubts as to its basic soundness and workability. Cases are collected in 3 Wigmore §905. Revised Rule 32(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows any party to impeach a witness by means of his deposition, and Rule 43(b) has allowed the calling and impeachment of an adverse party or person identified with him. Illustrative statutes allowing a party to impeach his own witness under varying circumstances are Ill.Rev. Stats.1967, c. 110, §60; Mass.Laws Annot. 1959, c. 233 §23; 20 N.M.Stats. Annot. 1953, §20–2–4; N.Y. CPLR §4514 (McKinney 1963); 12 Vt.Stats. Annot. 1959, §§1641a, 1642. Complete judicial rejection of the old rule is found in United States v. Freeman, 302 F.2d 347 (2d Cir. 1962). The same result is reached in Uniform Rule 20; California Evidence Code §785; Kansas Code of Civil Procedure §60–420. See also New Jersey Evidence Rule 20.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1987 Amendment

The amendment is technical. No substantive change is intended.

Committee Notes on Rules—2011 Amendment

The language of Rule 607 has been amended as part of the restyling of the Evidence Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only. There is no intent to change any result in any ruling on evidence admissibility.

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