Using notebooks for organizing your trial material

Using notebooks for organizing your trial material

For many years of trial work I have used notebooks as my primary organizational tool for trials.Originally I used schoolthree ring notebooks withdividers and lined paper. My trials were not very long nor complicated and this was how I organizedmy trials. As trialsbecame more involved I began to add three ringwitness materials notebooksorganized alphabetically. This notebook was used along with expansion files with thewitness deposition, statements and resource materialcoded to the notebook.I could pull the deposition, exhibits and materials out of the trial box with a notebook and have athe witness materialsall in one unit. As my trials grew more complicated the number of boxes with notebooks and materials expanded to the point we would began to rank the size of the case by the number of boxes as ina "twenty box trial."

Essentially we are using the same system today, however we now store data andmaterials in our computers as well. Now all of our trials involve a technician present in court to operate our computer, Elmo, projector and videoequipment. We even have jury software which allows us to check each juror on the internet for information from sources such as Craig’s List and Face book as well as blogs. In spite of this, I am still dedicated to my notebook approach. Even in lengthy and complex trials I have my personal trial notebook, examination notebook, resource notebook and testimony notebooks. In addition, I have a jury notebook for jury selection. The notebooks are all two prong purchased from Bindertek and supply company. use two prong because I learned that judges and jurors do not appreciate the sound of three ring notebooks snapping shut when you open them to remove paper and because of the configuration on these types of notebooks.

All of my yellow pads (actually I like to use white pads) are letter sized and are pre punched. Across the top are two holes to fit the fasteners in a trial file. Along the side are holes for a three ring notebook and holes for a two ring notebook. The paper can be easily inserted into a file, a three ring notebook or a two ring without having to punch the paper as it is already punched.

The notebooks are different colors. Testimony notebooks are green and have alphabetical dividers. Behind the divider are the depositions and information for each witness with a code to where the bulky materials are stored in the box. Resource notebooks are blue and arranged with dividers. This notebook has general information regarding the case. Theexamination notebook is red and is my primary cross examination and trial guide. The jury notebook is blue and the trial notebook white.

The jury notebook has a divider for the jury box with the names and information about the final jury that’s selected in the case. There is a divider for the list of the entire jury panel. There is a divider for notes about what the judge tells the jury about the case before the selection starts. There is a divider to record the questions the judge asks the jury before the lawyers begin. I have a divider with a form to keep track of the challenges for cause as well as discretionary challenges. There is a divider for any questions to the group as a whole and a divider for questions designed for individual questioning of jurors. Behind this divider is a single sheet with such things as the theme and the points I need to cover. There arealsodividers for the jury profile, for the law relating to jury selection and a general resource section.

Here is how I organize the trial notebook. The first sheet under the cover contains information about all of the lawyers involved – phone, address and e-mail. It has similar information about the judge, the clerk, the bailiff and the court reporter as well as information about the case such as the caption, hours of court and the like.There is a project divider for noting things I have to do and a divider for the trial schedule. There is a divider for motions. Any pre trial order relating to evidence would go here as well as a form to keep track of motions and rulings made during trial. There is a divider for notes about the opening statement and dividers for notes on direct examination and rebuttal testimony. There is a divider for listing exhibits in the case and one for keeping track of jury instruction issues. There are dividers for general information about liability issues, damage issues and final argument.

My examination notebook has a divider for cross examination questions. Behind that are numerical dividers with a master index for materials relating to cross examination. Next is a chronology divider for time lines. There is a divider for liability reports and investigations and a divider for liability information specific to use with witnesses. There is a divider for medical summaries of the medical records and information. A divider for bills and a divider for general damage information specific to use with witnesses. Other dividers are added as need for the case, but it will be condensed to fit into one notebook.

While there may be forty or more boxes of material in the court room, I will have near me the examination notebook and resource notebook which are my companions during the trial. My other notebooks are kept in a separate box for my use during trial. There are a lot of ways to organize trial materials, but this system has worked well for me for many years.

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