Rule 43 – Taking Testimony

(a) In Open Court. At trial, the witnesses’ testimony must be taken in open court unless a federal statute, the Federal Rules of Evidence, these rules, or other rules adopted by the Supreme Court provide otherwise. For good cause in compelling circumstances and with appropriate safeguards, the court may permit testimony in open court by contemporaneous transmission from a different location.

(b) Affirmation Instead of an Oath. When these rules require an oath, a solemn affirmation suffices.

(c) Evidence on a Motion. When a motion relies on facts outside the record, the court may hear the matter on affidavits or may hear it wholly or partly on oral testimony or on depositions.

(d) Interpreter. The court may appoint an interpreter of its choosing; fix reasonable compensation to be paid from funds provided by law or by one or more parties; and tax the compensation as costs.

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 43 governs the presentation of evidence and testimony at trials in federal courts. It emphasizes the importance of oral testimony and the direct examination of witnesses in open court as the primary means of presenting evidence. Here’s a concise summary and explanation:


  1. Oral Testimony: Rule 43(a) establishes that, in general, witnesses’ testimony at trial should be given orally in open court unless the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a federal statute, these rules, or other rules adopted by the Supreme Court provide otherwise. This supports the principle of transparency and the opportunity for cross-examination.
  2. Evidence Through Depositions: The rule also provides conditions under which testimony may be presented through depositions instead of live, in-person testimony. This includes situations where the witness is dead, out of the country, unable to attend due to age, illness, or imprisonment, or if the witness cannot be subpoenaed.
  3. Remote Testimony: Under certain circumstances, with the court’s approval, testimony may be taken and transmitted by electronic means such as video conferencing. This provision accommodates the practicalities of modern litigation, where witnesses might not be able to physically attend the trial.
  4. Interpreters: Rule 43(f) specifies that the court may appoint interpreters and set reasonable compensation for them, ensuring that non-English speakers or those needing assistance can fully participate in the trial.
  5. Admissibility of Evidence: The rule touches upon the admissibility of evidence, reaffirming that evidence must be presented according to the principles of the best evidence rule, hearsay exceptions, and other evidentiary rules.


Rule 43 underscores the preference for live testimony in the presence of the judge and jury, allowing for immediate cross-examination and observation of the witness’s demeanor, which are essential for assessing credibility. However, it acknowledges the practical challenges that can arise, providing alternatives that ensure a trial can proceed even when live testimony is not possible.

The inclusion of remote testimony reflects the evolution of court procedures to incorporate technological advancements, enhancing access to justice by allowing witnesses to testify without the burden of travel.

By setting out clear guidelines for the use of interpreters, Rule 43 ensures that all parties, regardless of language proficiency, have a fair opportunity to present their case and understand the proceedings.

Overall, Rule 43 balances the traditional principles of trial procedure with the need for flexibility and accessibility in modern litigation, facilitating the fair and efficient presentation of evidence in federal courts.


(As amended Feb. 28, 1966, eff. July 1, 1966; Nov. 20, 1972, and Dec. 18, 1972, eff. July 1, 1975; Mar. 2, 1987, eff. Aug. 1, 1987; Apr. 23, 1996, eff. Dec. 1, 1996; Apr. 30, 2007, eff. Dec. 1, 2007.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1937

Note to Subdivision (a). The first sentence is a restatement of the substance of U.S.C., Title 28, [former] §635 (Proof in common-law actions), §637 [see 2072, 2073] (Proof in equity and admiralty), and [former] Equity Rule 46 (Trial—Testimony Usually Taken in Open Court—Rulings on Objections to Evidence). This rule abolishes in patent and trade-mark actions, the practice under [former] Equity Rule 48 of setting forth in affidavits the testimony in chief of expert witnesses whose testimony is directed to matters of opinion. The second and third sentences on admissibility of evidence and Subdivision (b) on contradiction and cross-examination modify U.S.C., Title 28, §725 [now 1652] (Laws of states as rules of decision) insofar as that statute has been construed to prescribe conformity to state rules of evidence. Compare Callihan and Ferguson, Evidence and the New Federal Rules of Civil Procedure , 45 Yale L.J. 622 (1936), and Same: 2, 47 Yale L.J. 195 (1937). The last sentence modifies to the extent indicated U.S.C., Title 28, [former] §631 (Competency of witnesses governed by State laws).

Note to Subdivision (b). See 4 Wigmore on Evidence (2d ed., 1923) §1885 et seq.

Note to Subdivision (c). See [former] Equity Rule 46 (Trial—Testimony Usually Taken in Open Court—Rulings on Objections to Evidence). With the last sentence compare Dowagiac v. Lochren, 143 Fed. 211 (C.C.A.8th, 1906). See also Blease v. Garlington, 92 U.S. 1 (1876); Nelson v. United States, 201 U.S. 92. 114 (1906); Unkle v. Wills, 281 Fed. 29 (C.C.A.8th 1922).

See Rule 61 for harmless error in either the admission or exclusion of evidence.

Note to Subdivision (d). See [former] Equity Rule 78 (Affirmation in Lieu of Oath) and U.S.C., Title 1, §1 (Words importing singular number, masculine gender, etc.; extended application), providing for affirmation in lieu of oath.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1946 Supplementary Note Regarding Rules 43 and 44

These rules have been criticized and suggested improvements offered by commentators. 1 Wigmore on Evidence (3d ed. 1940) 200–204; Green, The Admissibility of Evidence Under the Federal Rules (1941) 55 Harv.L.Rev. 197. Cases indicate, however, that the rule is working better than these commentators had expected. Boerner v. United States (C.C.A.2d, 1941) 117 F.(2d) 387, cert. den. (1941) 313 U.S. 587; Mosson v. Liberty Fast Freight Co. (C.C.A.2d, 1942) 124 F.(2d) 448; Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co. v. Olivier (C.C.A.5th, 1941) 123 F.(2d) 709; Anzano v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. of New York (C.C.A.3d, 1941) 118 F.(2d) 430; Franzen v. E. I. DuPont De Nemours & Co. (C.C.A.3d, 1944) 146 F.(2d) 837; Fakouri v. Cadais (C.C.A.5th, 1945) 147 F.(2d) 667; In re C. & P. Co. (S.D.Cal. 1945) 63 F.Supp. 400, 408. But cf. United States v. Aluminum Co. of America (S.D.N.Y. 1938) 1 Fed.Rules Serv. 43a.3, Case 1; Note (1946) 46 Col.L.Rev. 267. While consideration of a comprehensive and detailed set of rules of evidence seems very desirable, it has not been feasible for the Committee so far to undertake this important task. Such consideration should include the adaptability to federal practice of all or parts of the proposed Code of Evidence of the American Law Institute. See Armstrong, Proposed Amendments to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure , 4 F.R.D. 124, 137–138.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1966 Amendment

This new subdivision authorizes the court to appoint interpreters (including interpreters for the deaf), to provide for their compensation, and to tax the compensation as costs. Compare proposed subdivision (b) of Rule 28 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1972 Amendment

Rule 43, entitled Evidence, has heretofore served as the basic rule of evidence for civil cases in federal courts. Its very general provisions are superseded by the detailed provisions of the new Rules of Evidence. The original title and many of the provisions of the rule are, therefore, no longer appropriate.

Subdivision (a). The provision for taking testimony in open court is not duplicated in the Rules of Evidence and is retained. Those dealing with admissibility of evidence and competency of witnesses, however, are no longer needed or appropriate since those topics are covered at large in the Rules of Evidence. They are accordingly deleted. The language is broadened, however, to take account of acts of Congress dealing with the taking of testimony, as well as of the Rules of Evidence and any other rules adopted by the Supreme Court.

Subdivision (b). The subdivision is no longer needed or appropriate since the matters with which it deals are treated in the Rules of Evidence. The use of leading questions, both generally and in the interrogation of an adverse party or witness identified with him, is the subject of Evidence Rule 611(c). Who may impeach is treated in Evidence Rule 601 and scope of cross-examination is covered in Evidence Rule 611(b). The subdivision is accordingly deleted.

Subdivision (c). Offers of proof and making a record of excluded evidence are treated in Evidence Rule 103. The subdivision is no longer needed or appropriate and is deleted.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1987 Amendment

The amendment is technical. No substantive change is intended.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1996 Amendment

Rule 43(a) is revised to conform to the style conventions adopted for simplifying the present Civil Rules. The only intended changes of meaning are described below.

The requirement that testimony be taken “orally” is deleted. The deletion makes it clear that testimony of a witness may be given in open court by other means if the witness is not able to communicate orally. Writing or sign language are common examples. The development of advanced technology may enable testimony to be given by other means. A witness unable to sign or write by hand may be able to communicate through a computer or similar device.

Contemporaneous transmission of testimony from a different location is permitted only on showing good cause in compelling circumstances. The importance of presenting live testimony in court cannot be forgotten. The very ceremony of trial and the presence of the factfinder may exert a powerful force for truthtelling. The opportunity to judge the demeanor of a witness face-to-face is accorded great value in our tradition. Transmission cannot be justified merely by showing that it is inconvenient for the witness to attend the trial.

The most persuasive showings of good cause and compelling circumstances are likely to arise when a witness is unable to attend trial for unexpected reasons, such as accident or illness, but remains able to testify from a different place. Contemporaneous transmission may be better than an attempt to reschedule the trial, particularly if there is a risk that other—and perhaps more important—witnesses might not be available at a later time.

Other possible justifications for remote transmission must be approached cautiously. Ordinarily depositions, including video depositions, provide a superior means of securing the testimony of a witness who is beyond the reach of a trial subpoena, or of resolving difficulties in scheduling a trial that can be attended by all witnesses. Deposition procedures ensure the opportunity of all parties to be represented while the witness is testifying. An unforeseen need for the testimony of a remote witness that arises during trial, however, may establish good cause and compelling circumstances. Justification is particularly likely if the need arises from the interjection of new issues during trial or from the unexpected inability to present testimony as planned from a different witness.

Good cause and compelling circumstances may be established with relative ease if all parties agree that testimony should be presented by transmission. The court is not bound by a stipulation, however, and can insist on live testimony. Rejection of the parties’ agreement will be influenced, among other factors, by the apparent importance of the testimony in the full context of the trial.

A party who could reasonably foresee the circumstances offered to justify transmission of testimony will have special difficulty in showing good cause and the compelling nature of the circumstances. Notice of a desire to transmit testimony from a different location should be given as soon as the reasons are known, to enable other parties to arrange a deposition, or to secure an advance ruling on transmission so as to know whether to prepare to be present with the witness while testifying.

No attempt is made to specify the means of transmission that may be used. Audio transmission without video images may be sufficient in some circumstances, particularly as to less important testimony. Video transmission ordinarily should be preferred when the cost is reasonable in relation to the matters in dispute, the means of the parties, and the circumstances that justify transmission. Transmission that merely produces the equivalent of a written statement ordinarily should not be used.

Safeguards must be adopted that ensure accurate identification of the witness and that protect against influence by persons present with the witness. Accurate transmission likewise must be assured.

Other safeguards should be employed to ensure that advance notice is given to all parties of foreseeable circumstances that may lead the proponent to offer testimony by transmission. Advance notice is important to protect the opportunity to argue for attendance of the witness at trial. Advance notice also ensures an opportunity to depose the witness, perhaps by video record, as a means of supplementing transmitted testimony.

Committee Notes on Rules—2007 Amendment

The language of Rule 43 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Civil 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.

References in Text

The Federal Rules of Evidence, referred to in subd. (a), are set out in this Appendix.

Effective Date of Amendments Proposed November 20, 1972, and December 18, 1972

Amendments of this rule embraced by orders entered by the Supreme Court of the United States on November 20, 1972, and December 18, 1972, effective on the 180th day beginning after January 2, 1975, see section 3 of Pub. L. 93–595, Jan. 2, 1975, 88 Stat. 1959, set out as a note under section 2074 of this title.

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