Tuesday 6 May 2014

Tips for taking effective objections in court

Making objections is a key skill for every trial attorney. The more you try cases, the more rote they become. But if you’re relatively new to the courtroom, or it’s been a while since you’ve been there, here’s a system for memorizing possible objections and having them at the tip of your tongue at trial.
This system breaks down the common objections into easy-to-remember words and phrases that you should be able to easily recall during the heat of battle:
  1. Incompetent. Is the witness competent to testify at all? Is the witness competent to testify on a particular issue? For example, does the question ask a lay witness for expert testimony, or does the witness lack personal knowledge of the facts?
  2. Irrelevant. Does the question call for irrelevant evidence? Evidence must be relevant to be admissible.
  3. Hearsay. Does the question ask for hearsay?
  4. No foundation. Is the foundation incomplete or missing? The most common foundational issues involve authenticating writings, establishing identity, showing personal knowledge, the various requirements for introducing opinion evidence, and relevance.
  5. Privileged. Does the question ask for privileged information?
  6. Form of question incorrect. Is the form of the question incorrect? The question may, e.g., be compound, call for a narrative answer, or call for speculation.
  7. Other objections. Is there some other reason for objecting that does not fall in the categories above, e.g., improper impeachment, improper rehabilitation?
Every objection must be stated to clearly specify its ground. Don’t limit objections to one ground if several grounds are warranted, but be sure they are all warranted and distinctly specified—nobody likes to hear everything but the kitchen sink thrown in!

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