The Future of Confrontation

The Supreme Court seems to be setting the stage for a long-awaited examination of the confrontation clause. It has been ten years since the Court endeavored in Dutton v. Evans to reconcile the evidentiary rules of hearsay with the constitutional commands of confrontation. Dutton came at the tail end of a string of confrontation cases that the Court had resolved without apparent difficulty. Not surprisingly, the Court approached Dutton in the evident belief that it could resolve the constitutional problems of hearsay once and for all. Instead, after oral argument in 1969 and a rehearing in 1970, the Court found itself hopelessly divided, able to produce only an inconclusive plurality opinion. Since then, the Court has conspicuously avoided this central problem of the relationship between hearsay and confrontation.