Rule 615. Sequestering Witnesses.
At a partys request the court may order witnesses sequestered so that they cannot learn of other witnesses testimony. Or the court may do so on its own. But this rule does not authorize sequestering:
(a) a party who is a natural person;
(b) an officer or employee of a party that is not a natural person (including the Commonwealth) after being designated as the partys representative by its attorney;
(c) a person whose presence a party shows to be essential to presenting the partys claim or defense; or
(d) a person authorized by statute or rule to be present.
Pa.R.E. 615 differs from F.R.E. 615 in that the word sequestering is used instead of the word excluding, and the rule is discretionary not mandatory. Both of these are consistent with prior Pennsylvania law. See Commonwealth v. Albrecht, 510 Pa. 603, 511 A.2d 764 (1986). Pa.R.E. 615 uses the term learn of rather than the word hear. This indicates that the courts order may prohibit witnesses from using other means of learning of the testimony of other witnesses.
Pa.R.E. 615(b) adds the parenthetical (including the Commonwealth).
Pa.R.E 615(d) differs from the Federal Rule in that it adds the words or rule. This includes persons such as the guardian of a minor, see Pa.R.C.P. No. 2027, and the guardian of an incapacitated person, see Pa.R.C.P. No. 2053.
The trial court has discretion in choosing a remedy for violation of a sequestration order. See Commonwealth v. Smith, 464 Pa. 314, 346 A.2d 757 (1975). Remedies include ordering a mistrial, forbidding the testimony of the offending witness, or an instruction to the jury. Commonwealth v. Scott, 496 Pa. 78, 436 A.2d 161 (1981).
Adopted May 8, 1998, effective October 1, 1998; rescinded and replaced January 17, 2013, effective March 18, 2013.
Committee Explanatory Reports:
Final Report explaining the January 17, 2013 rescission and replacement published with the Courts Order at 43 Pa.B. 651 (February 2, 2013).
The provisions of this Rule 615 rescinded and replaced January 17, 2013, effective in sixty days, 43 Pa.B. 620. Immediately preceding text appears at serial page (254221).
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