Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote in last Sunday’s New  York Times about the Congressional hearings involving appointee Elizabeth Warren to head up the consumer protection agency. Warren is a Harvard law professor who exhibited a lot more courage then any other recent appointees by not taking bullying from Republican committee members and member Patrick McHenry a North Carolina Republican, in particular. The Republican committee members had already made it clear they had no intention of voting in her favor. When McHenry continued his harassment by his questions she told him “Congressman, you are causing problems.” She was protesting a violation of an  arrangement that only an hour was allowed for her questioning. Her standing up to him was a political breach of decorum that immediately caused talk on the hill. As noted by Stolberg:

“Still one could imagine a silent cheer going up around town from all those witnesses who have been beaten up, badgered or just plain had their schedules yanked around while doing their civic duty by sitting under hot lights in a wood paneled hearing room answering questions ad nauseam.”

 As Democratic advisor Jim Manley put it

“She stood up to a bunch of bullies on the dais…so I say, ‘more power to her.”

You ask: why am I writing about a political event in a trial lawyer advice blog? Because of what lobbyist Tom Korologos said about it. He said this violated the most important rule of testifying in a congressional hearing:

“The most important rule is the 80/20 rule. If they are talking 80% of the time and you are talking 20%, you’re winning. If it’s 60/40 it means you are arguing. If it’s 50/50, it means you’ve lost and you had better throw in the towel.”

So, what does that have to do with trial? Well, I suggest you apply exactly the same rule to jury selection. The jury should be talking 80% of the time and you should only be talking 20% of the time. Exactly the same rule applies to a 60/40 split – it means you are arguing with the jury panel and 50/50 means you have done a lousy job of bonding or creating credibility. I recommend you write at the top of the sheet of paper you have for jury questioning: “Remember the 80/20 rule!”

About Paul Luvera

Plaintiff trial lawyer for 50 years. Past President of the Inner Circle of Advocates & Washington State Trial Lawyers Association. Member American Board of Trial Advocates, American College of Trial Lawyers, International Academy, International Society of Barristers, member of the National Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame & speaker at Spence Trial College
This entry was posted in Jury. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.