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The California lawyer’s trusted source for fast, relevant, and practical legal guidance.

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    Jurors have been bombarded with information about “body language.” This information is joined by common folklore about tell-tale signs of falsehood. Here are five things to practice with your witnesses to keep their body language consistent with their truthful testimony. It’s not only about what the witness says, it’s also about how the witness says […]

    Julie BrooknoseJulie Brooknose

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    Business records aren’t just text documents—they often include videos and other images that are digitally stored. Getting printouts of these images into evidence is just like any other business record evidence, but showing authenticity may require some tech knowledge. The good news is that a printout of a video or digital image is presumed to […]

    Julie BrookprinterJulie Brookprinter

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    “[T]he dates assigned for a trial are firm. All parties and their counsel must regard the date set for trial as certain.” Cal Rules of Ct 3.1332(a). But things come up, and attorneys sometimes need to request a continuance of the trial date. Here’s how it’s done. A party seeking a continuance of a trial […]

    Julie Brook140044171Julie Brook140044171

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  • 01/13/17--07:55: Say It Early and Often
  • The most important concept to remember in organizing your statements to the jury, whether during opening statement or closing argument, is the “rule of primacy”: Jurors tend to believe what they hear first and most frequently. What someone believes first is hard to change or dislodge. That’s why going first gives the prosecution in a […]

    Julie Brook78724287Julie Brook78724287

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    There are some questions that are virtually always safe to ask during cross-examination and often elicit pleasantly surprising answers. Consider asking these questions on your next cross—they could make all the difference. Have you talked about this case with the lawyer for Mr. Jones? How many times? Didn’t Mr. Jones’s lawyer remind you of some […]

    Julie Brookthinkstockphotos-471597352Julie Brookthinkstockphotos-471597352

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    Whether and how you discuss damages in your opening statement and closing argument is a strategic consideration. A plaintiff discussing damages in the opening may turn jurors off, but not doing so can be a tactical mistake. Defendants usually want to steer clear of damages in the opening if possible. And both sides should discuss […]

    Julie Brookthinkstockphotos-465858366Julie Brookthinkstockphotos-465858366

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  • 04/07/17--07:43: 8 Ways to Combat Objections
  • A proponent of evidence can counter anticipated objections with a motion in limine before trial starts, but usually counsel counters objections to evidence after the opponent objects at trial. Here are eight ways to do it. Submit a previously prepared memorandum briefing the admissibility issue. Have a memo ready to go when the objection is […]

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    When it comes to testifying, the first and most fundamental rule is to tell the truth. In addition to the obvious reasons, it’s hard to trick or trap someone who’s telling the truth about everything. But sometimes witnesses are afraid to admit to mistakes or biases and inadvertently appear less than honest.  Witnesses may think […]

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    The key to a successful cross-examination is to start strong. The beginning of your cross is the time to go for the jugular. Here’s an example of how it’s done. Question by defense counsel: Agent Wooster, the United States government spent over $1 million on this case, from the time of investigation until now, correct? […]

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    There are times you want to offer former testimony against a party to a former proceeding or against a party at the current trial who wasn’t a party to the former proceeding. There’s a hearsay exception for that, and here’s how you use it. The hearsay exception for former testimony deals primarily with statements that […]

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    Both the opening statement and the closing argument should be used to persuade. An essential part of the persuasion process is establishing your credibility with the jury by nurturing its perception of your sincerity, trustworthiness, and knowledge of facts. Here are four ways to increase your credibility. Use of simple language. Make every effort to […]

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    In addition to the file materials used in preparing for deposition—and that should be reviewed again for trial—there are at least four types of written materials that every expert witness should carefully read and analyze before testifying at trial. The expert’s own deposition. Forward the transcript of the expert’s deposition to him or her as […]

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    In a personal injury case, plaintiff’s counsel should approach the opening statement to the jury with one primary goal: establishing credibility. If the jury believes you, it will be much more likely to rule for your client. Here’s a sample opening statement that shows how you can get right out of the gate with credibility. […]

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    Some trial exhibits can be quite interesting and the jurors may want a close look at them. But is it a good idea to pass your exhibits to the jurors? As trial counsel, you definitely can ask that your exhibit be passed to the jury after it’s been received and marked in evidence. You can […]

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    Juries usually base their verdicts on a small number of crucial points. But lawyers tend to offer as much evidence as possible, believing this will make their case more convincing or fearing they’ll leave something out. Finding the fine line between making sure the point isn’t lost and losing the point by insulting jurors with […]

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    When examining a witness, counsel should ask questions that are intelligently phrased, concise, and clear in meaning. No one should have to guess at what the question means. If opposing counsel asks a question that can’t be understood or may be misunderstood by the witness, object on the ground that it’s ambiguous or unintelligible. Ambiguous […]

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    “The toughest part of being a trial attorney, whether criminal or civil, is pulling off an excellent cross,” says Toni Messina in her article for Above the Law. So, if you’re a new trial attorney, or it’s been a while, it’s natural to be nervous about an upcoming cross-examination. An excellent way to calm your […]

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    Retaining an expert witness is expensive and may not be necessary in every case. Don’t try to keep up with the Jones & Jones firm: Just because the other side has an expert or because experts have traditionally been used in similar cases doesn’t mean you need one. And if you decide you do need … Continue reading Do You Need an Expert Witness, and If So, What Type?

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    A witness on the stand has made a statement that’s inconsistent with his or her earlier deposition testimony and has committed to the inconsistency. As the cross-examining attorney, how should you handle it? Start by calling it out: Confront the witness with the inconsistency so that you convey it to the jury. Some attorneys like to confront … Continue reading How to Cross-Examine with Inconsistent Depo Testimony

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    How the attorney and witness appear to the jury can be as important as the words that are spoken. Here are four tips from expert trial attorneys that will make your direct examination more effective regardless of what you ask the witness. Be the master. Assume a demeanor during direct examination that reflects mastery of … Continue reading What Expert Attorneys Do During Direct Examination

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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