Category Archives: Checklist

Check list of advice for your client about trial

Put yourself in the shoes of your client. He or she has probably never been to court and the only thing they know about trial is what they have seen on TV. They are probably frightened and they probably have some very mistaken ideas about a trial. Of course, you want to prepare them, but what do you tell them? Here’s a simple outline I created for a video I made about a trial. The client is given a copy of the DVD of me explaining a trial. By putting it on video they can watch it at home and look at it as many times as they want. Plus it eliminates the risk of leaving something out in the advice. This isn’t the only thing we do to prepare a client. Lots of time is spent with the client and the lawyer as well. This is a basic outline you can adapt for your own jurisidiction and type of practice.

WHAT GOES ON AT TRIAL?

(1) Not like you have seen on tv & in movies
(2) Court hours
(3) Identify the role of court personnel & importance of being nice to them
(4) Identification of lawyers,if media covering, who might be in audience
(5) Identify "plaintiff" & "defendants" lawyers and personel

OUTLINE OF WHAT IS A TRIAL

(1) After judge explains jury selection takes place – explain process
(2) Next, opening statement plaintiff 1st then defendant
(3) First plaintiff’s witnesses & cross examination – possible witness out of turn
/ juror questions
/ jurors take notes
(4) After our case, defense witnesses & cross examination
(5) After defense case rebuttal witnesses (rare)
(6) Judge gives jury instruction after conference with lawyers
(7) Judge readsinstructions to jury
(8) Plaintiff summation first
(9) Defense summation afterwards
(10) Plaintiff makes concluding summation
(11) Jury leaves to deliberate untilverdict reached & read
(12) Jury polled

OBJECTIONS BY LAWYERS

(1) Explain procedure. butdefense objects more then plaintiff

JURY SELECTION EXPLAINED (Not Federal court)

(1)Judge introductes case and startsquestioning
(2) Time limits for questioning
(3) Some juries six vs twelve – alternate jurors
(4) Plaintiff starts – group questioning (5) juror information
(6) Challenges explained: cause and peremptory – 3 only

OPENING STATEMENT

(1) Not argument – facts & evidence
(2) Time limit may be imposed
(3) Plaintiff starts first – defendant second
(4) Listen very carefully to both – outline of our case and defenses

WITNESSES FOR PLAINTIFF

(1) Exclusion of witnesses explained- not clients
(2) Procedure for swearing – can affirm
(3) Direct exam & thencross. Can repeat process
(4) Side bar conferences – client not present
(5) Juror questions and significance

WITNESSES FOR DEFENSE

(1) After plaintiff "rests" – defensemotions
(2) After motions defense startsdirect followed by plaintiff cross etc.

JURY INSTRUCTIONS

(1) Conference with judge to go over and object to instructions- client not present
(2)Reading instructions to jurors
(3) Explain special verdict form with multiple questions

SUMMATION

(1) Time limits may be imposed
(2) First plaintiff argues
(3) Then defense
(4) Plaintiff makes third last argument

VERDICT

(1) Jury deliberation – foreperson appointed
(2) No way of knowing how long deliberate
(3) When verdict reached – parties notified – time allowed to get to court house
(4) Judge reads and then gives to clerk to read verdict outloud
(5) Jury polled
(6) Judge decides if we can talkto jurors – sometimes ok sometimes not

AFTER VERDICT PROCEDURE

(1) Motions for new trial – timing
(2) Appeal – two appellate courts -time it takes
(3) Costs – transcript – appeal process explained
(4) New trial or affirmed

GENERAL CONDUCT RULES DURING TRIAL

(1) You are being watched – in court, in bathroom & outside courtroom
(2) Be prepared to be called unexpectedly
(3) How to dress
(4) How to act while watching the trial – shaking head etc
(5) Passing notes to lawyer
(6) Watching jury – smile but don’t fawn –
(7) Lawyers time to spend with you limited
(8) Be courteous to everyone – especially court personnel

RULES FOR TESTIFYING ON DIRECT

(1) Tell the truth vs trying to figure out best answer
(2) Impression vs right – don’t be angry or bitter – be "up"
(3) Know the defense theory & our position
(4) Listen: make sure you understand the question
(5) Talk to the jury – look at them
(6) Listen – listen – listen & answer just the question
(7) If you make a mistake, speak up
(8) Be definite on important issues
(9) Don’t talk about "insurance" or "settlement"

RULES FOR CROSS EXAMINATION

(1) Be polite & calm no matter what the lawyer says
(2) Never get angry – don’t over react
(3) Avoid closing the door
(4) It’s ok to have talked to your lawyer & prepared
(5) Don’t look to your lawyer for help
(6) You will be asked about:
(a) deposition statements
(b) medical record information
(c) injuries & effect on you
(7) Listen to the objections your lawyer may make – made for a reason

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