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

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    Clarity is key. To be persuasive, the meaning of opening statements and closing arguments must be clear to the jury. Here are five tips for attaining clarity, with illustrative examples for each. 1. Invoke commonality. One way to communicate clearly with the jury is to refer to commonly shared experiences. Consider the following statements, which … Continue reading 5 Tips for Crafting a Clear Opening Statement or Closing Argument

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    After the other side has had a chance to cross-examine your witness, you get another bite at the apple—redirect examination. Knowing when and how to do redirect is key. When should you do redirect examination? Redirect examination may not be necessary unless some inconsistency or confusion was created by the cross-examination. In a sense, extensive … Continue reading FAQs about Redirect Examination

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    When evidence presented during direct examination is distorted by being taken out of context, you can counteract that distortion by invoking the rule of completeness. The “rule of completeness” provides that, when only part of an act, conversation, statement, or document comes into evidence, the opposing party may introduce other relevant parts of that act, … Continue reading How to Put Partial Evidence in Complete Context

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    The “dying declaration” exception to the hearsay rule just jumped from law school textbooks onto California newspapers: A young woman who was stabbed and bleeding told officers about who had assaulted her shortly before she died, leading to the arrest of two suspects. It’s time to review what’s required to meet this hearsay exception. Here are … Continue reading Revisiting the Dying Declaration Exception

    Julie Brooklife and death; dying declarant must believe death is imminentJulie Brooklife and death; dying declarant must believe death is imminent

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    Many of us were taught that it’s impolite to refer to someone’s financial status. In a courtroom, it may also be misconduct. You may be very tempted to tell the jury about the defendant’s abundant resources or the plaintiff’s likelihood of filing for bankruptcy. But commenting on a party’s financial status could get you into … Continue reading For Richer or Poorer: Don’t Discuss a Party’s Financial Status with the Jury

    Julie Brookwoman zipping her mouth shut so she won't discuss parties' financial status with juryJulie Brookwoman zipping her mouth shut so she won't discuss parties' financial status with jury

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    When it comes to preparing a child to testify at trial, there are at least three things that differ from preparing an adult witness. The focus should be on putting the child at ease. A child may be very frightened at the prospect of having to testify. It may help alleviate this fear to take … Continue reading 3 Things to Consider When Preparing a Young Witness

    Julie Brookgirl covering her mouth before testifying in courtJulie Brookgirl covering her mouth before testifying in court

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    Leading questions are the main tool of the cross-examiner—they tell a witness how to answer by suggesting an answer. See Evid C §764. But you should also know when using leading questions on cross-examination isn’t the best technique. There’s a general rule for cross-examination that you can best control the witness with leading questions. This … Continue reading 3 Times Not to Ask Leading Questions on Cross

    Julie Brookattorney questioning witness during cross-examinationJulie Brookattorney questioning witness during cross-examination

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    Some lawyers decide at the beginning of a case that they’ll never be able to understand what the expert is talking about, and they make no effort to do so. Bad plan! Regardless of the expert’s skill, it’s the lawyer’s responsibility to make sure that his or her expertise is presented to the trier of … Continue reading Get a Crash Course from Your Expert

    Julie BrookLearn fast from your expert about the area of expertiseJulie BrookLearn fast from your expert about the area of expertise

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    When cross-examining a witness, almost always begin and end with your strongest questions. Except in a couple of situations. Many attorneys begin cross-examination of witnesses with the verbal equivalent of clearing their throats. They ask routine questions about employment, or other peripheral matters. This is not the way to go. Start with a bang! A … Continue reading Begin and End with Your Strongest Questions

    Julie Brookuse strong question to open and close your cross-examination of a trial witnessJulie Brookuse strong question to open and close your cross-examination of a trial witness

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    When selecting a jury for a civil trial, counsel has pretty wide latitude in terms of the scope of voir dire questions. But there are limits. Counsel has a basic right to examine prospective jurors to ascertain whether grounds exist to challenge them. CCP §222.5(b)(1). (Voir dire in criminal cases is governed by CCP §223). … Continue reading What You Can’t Ask a Juror During Voir Dire

    Julie Brookpotential jurors waiting to be questioned by the attorneys and the judgeJulie Brookpotential jurors waiting to be questioned by the attorneys and the judge

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    When the opposing side objects to your evidence or the judge rules your evidence inadmissible, it’s time to make an offer of proof to encourage the court to admit the evidence or reconsider its ruling. Here’s a handy table illustrating how much of a showing is necessary in an offer of proof. Offers of proof … Continue reading Are You Showing Enough in an Offer of Proof?

    Julie Brookattorney making offer of proof to judge at trialJulie Brookattorney making offer of proof to judge at trial

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    When conducting direct examination of a party or witness, how you ask the questions can be as important as what you ask. Review and apply these five direct examination techniques every time. Speak in a comfortable style. Use a conversational tone that’s loud enough for all to hear and can encourage a witness to speak … Continue reading 5 Direct Examination Techniques You Should Be Using

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    A plaintiff‘s closing argument must focus on linking the plaintiff’s claims to the evidence. However when a jury is involved, you’ll need to do more than that. Here are three tips from expert trial attorneys for an effective closing argument. 1. Build rapport back up. There’s often considerable time between opening statements and closing arguments. … Continue reading 3 Tips for Plaintiff’s Closing Argument

    Julie Brookplaintiff's lawyer talking to jury during closing argumentJulie Brookplaintiff's lawyer talking to jury during closing argument

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    Many attorneys work through their nervousness by beginning their cross examination with taking the witness step by step through previous direct examination testimony. Then they turn to the hard job of true cross-examination. Here’s why you shouldn’t do this. The jury will be more likely to believe (and remember) statements they hear two, three, or … Continue reading Don’t Do This on Cross Examination

    Julie Brookcross examining a witnessJulie Brookcross examining a witness

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  • 11/14/18--07:53: List of Trial Objections
  • Before heading into trial, review this list of trial objections. And keep it handy during trial. Objections to Competency of Witness Unable to express and be understood (Evid C §701) Unable to understand duty to tell truth (Evid C §701) Judge at this trial (Evid C §703) Juror at this trial (Evid C §704) Without … Continue reading List of Trial Objections

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    You’re 30 days from your trial date. Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve gotten this close, or maybe it’s your first time. Don’t worry—here’s a handy chart setting out what you need to do. 40 to 20 Days Before Trial to Trial Date (TD) Make sure discovery is complete or obtain extension (CCP §§2024.020(a), … Continue reading What to Do a Month Before Trial

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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    As with all witnesses, you must be able to control an expert witness during cross-examination. But many experts with experience in testifying treat cross-examiners like presidential candidates deal with the press: they ignore the question asked and answer the question they prefer. Here’s how to keep experts under your control. If you’ve got an evasive … Continue reading How to Control an Expert Witness

    Julie BrookJulie Brook

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