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Trial Advocacy
University of Illinois School of Law
Beckett, J. Steven

Trial Advocacy
I.                    Trial Process
a.       Intro
                                                               i.      Jury Trials – principal method of resolving legal disputes that people cannot settle outside courts
1.       Most important dispute-resolving method in the US
2.       Jury – determines facts
3.       Judge – determines law
                                                              ii.      Tools for trial:
1.       Substantive law
2.       Procedural law
3.       Evidence law
4.       Persuasion “law” – psychology of persuasion
a.       Most difficult to learn à lifetime of study
b.       Local Practices & Procedures
                                                               i.      Your tools for trial (see above) will change based upon your jurisdiction of practice
                                                              ii.      MUST learn and understand all the rules for your tools
c.        Trial Date Assignment
                                                               i.      Set in 2 basic ways
1.       Individual Calendars
a.       Trial judge is responsible for their own handling of cases assigned to their docket
                                                                                                                                       i.      Includes date for trial
2.       Central Assigning system
a.       Found primarily in large urban areas
b.       Cases remain on one central calendar
c.        Cases “get in line” w/ oldest coming first
                                                                                                                                       i.      Ranges from 1-5 yrs
d.       Once the case is on top, assigned to a judge for trial
e.        Lawyers’ responsibility to keep track of their cases
d.       Jury Selection
                                                               i.      At the first day of trial, you will go to select the jury
                                                              ii.      While clerk goes to get the potentials, the court will try to encourage settlement
                                                            iii.      Judge will generally instruct the jury on how the process will work
1.       Is controlled by statutes, court rules, and individual judicial preferences
a.       These rules will dictate the qualifications, how many jurors will decide the case
b.       Statutes also determine the reasons for “cause” to “strike”
                                                            iv.      Jurors sworn in by the clerk, then proceeds
                                                             v.      Jury selection process may either be Panel or “strike-back” system
                                                            vi.      Rules of the judge will determine who actually gets to question the jurors (judges, lawyers, both)
                                                          vii.      Time for selection can vary from 1-3 hours, but high-profile cases take longer
e.        Preliminary Instructions of Law
                                                               i.      Happens after all the jurors have been selected
                                                              ii.      Judge will give the jury these first instructions
1.       Orients jurors
2.       Summarizes duties
3.       How to conduct self during the recess
4.       Some even will summarize the pleadings
5.       Some will allow juries to discuss evidence in recess, as long as all jurors are in the room.
6.       Some will allow note-taking by the jurors, but others will not
                                                            iii.      Lawyers will generally request that jurors not be permitted to talk together during the trial – known as “invoking the rule” or “separating the witnesses”
f.        Opening Statements
                                                               i.      Opportunity to tell the jury what they expect the evidence will show during the trial
                                                              ii.      Helps the jury to prep to understand the evidence when it is presented
                                                            iii.      Should be factual – no argument (but some judges allow a bit of “argument”)
                                                            iv.      Usually based on themes, storytelling, and given chronologically
1.       Should provide the party’s viewpoint
                                                             v.      Should be engaging and persuasive to the jury
                                                            vi.      Important to the case in order to get a decision in your favor
                                                          vii.      Last from 10-30 mins
1.       Don’t want to bore or overload jurors
                                                         viii.      Some jurisdictions require an assertion of the prima facie case (if so needs to be legally sufficient)
                                                            ix.      Sometimes D’s will not open until the P’s case –in-chief is completed
                                                             x.      Infrequently done before the prospective jurists panel
g.        Plaintiff’s case-in-chief
                                                               i.      Have burden of proof, presents evidence first
1.       Always the case, unless D has admitted the facts the P alleges
2.       Essentially, you have the burden to prove what you are claiming, regardless of which side you are on
                                                              ii.      Direct exam – done by the individual calling the witness (W)
1.       When finished – “pass the witness” or “your witness” (check custom)
                                                            iii.      Cross exam – limited by the scope of the direct
1.       Some jurisdictions are “English rule” which allows the crossing attorney to question on any relevant matter
                                                            iv.      Redirect – again done by the caller of the witness
1.       Limited to refuting those things brought out in Cross
                                                             v.      Recross – again done by the opposing counsel
1.       Further limited by scope of the redirect
                                                            vi.      Sources of evidence
1.       Witness Testimony
2.       Exhibits
a.       Require “foundation”
                                                                                                                                       i.      Meaning must prove it is what it purports to be
b.       Four types of exhibits
                                                                                                                                       i.      Real objects – guns, blood, drugs, machinery
                                                                                                                                      ii.      Demonstrative – diagrams, models, maps
                                                                                                                                    iii.      Writings – Ks, promissory notes, checks, letters
                                                                                                                                    iv.      Records – Private business and public records
c.        There are different requirements for each type of exhibit to establish “foundation”
3.       Judicial Notice
a.       Judge can admit into evidence a fact that is either well known or easily determined (full moon on a certain day)
4.       Stipulation
a.       Agreement between parties that certain facts are not in dispute
b.       Usually made in writing
                                                                                                                                       i.      Shown or read to the jury
c.        Judge will instruct on what it is
                                                          vii.      Up to P on how to present the evidence
                                                         viii.      After P is done, they will rest the case-in-chief
h.       Motions after Plaintiff Rests
                                                               i.      Usually a motion for directed verdict
1.       Criminal case: “motion for directed judgment of acquittal”
2.       Civil case: “motion for judgment as a matter of law”
                                                              ii.      Will happen, only if the P has failed to prove an element of the claim
                                                            iii.      Can be given orally, but better to give written motion to the court
                                                            iv.      D has the burden to prove how the evidence has not established the elements of the prima facie case
1.       Or could simply show how the evidence only leads to one possible conclusion
i.         Defendant’s case-in-chief
                                                               i.      2 possible components
1.       Evidence to refute P’s case in chief
2.       Evidence to prove affirmative defenses, counter-claims (or cross-claims)
                                                              ii.      Done in the same manner as the P
j.         Motions after Defendant rests
                                                               i.      P can move for directed verdict on any affirmative defenses or claims, if they have not been proved
k.       Plaintiff’s Rebuttal and Defendant’s Surrebuttal Cases
                                                               i.      After D has completed case-in-chief, this is an opportunity P has to present evidence that rebuts D’s counter-claims/affirmative defenses, rebuts any specific evidence that was faulty
                                                              ii.      Defendant gets last word to rebut the Plaintiff’s rebuttal to their evidence
                                                            iii.      NOTE: this is a similar pattern to the questioning of witnesses
l.         Motions at the Close of All Evidence
                                                               i.      After all evidence is in, chance for parties to request directed verdicts
                                                              ii.      Usually required if you want to move for a “judgment notwithstanding the verdict” when the jury returns a verdict
m.     Jury Instructions
                                                               i.      Judge will need to “settle instructions”
1.       Rules which instructions will be submitted to the jury
                                                              ii.      Usually will not be decided until all the evidence has been submitted
                                                            iii.      Conference is usually held after both sides rest, but before closing arguments
                                                            iv.      Sides are able to argue which instructions should be given, and why
                                                             v.      Must make objections on the record to why certain instructions should not be used, if you want to preserve the right to appeal as error
n.       Jury Deliberations and Verdict
                                                               i.      Jury goes into the jury room
                                                              ii.      Alternate jurors are dismissed
                                                            iii.      Bailiff sworn in to safeguard privacy of jurors
1.       Will be the one to carry exhibits back
                                                            iv.      Only guidance in the jury instructions
1.       Select foreperson
                                                             v.      If there are questions, the judge and lawyers will discuss on how to respond
                                                            vi.      When verdict reached, signal the judge that they have decided
1.       Verdict given to the bailiff (checks for proper signatures, etc)
2.       Verdicts can take a while, but generally within 1-4 hours
                                                          vii.      If no jury consensus reached (either unanimous or majority – jurisdiction)
1.       Will either have a “Allen charge” à listen to one another and reach a consensus
2.       Will declare a “mistrial” and will have to reschedule
o.       Post-Trial Motions and Appeal
                                                               i.      There are a limited number of days to file written post-trial motions
                                                              ii.      Most common:
1.       Motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict
a.       Sets aside the jury verdict and rule for the movant
2.       Motion for a new trial
a.       Ordering of new trial because of claimed errors
3.       Motion for additur or remittitur
a.       Asks the court to ADD or SUBTRACT dollar amounts for jury verdicts
p.       Conclusion
                                                               i.      Nothing unusual about the jury trial process
                                                              ii.      Remember
1.       Courts do things in different ways and continue to experiment
                                                            iii.      Every trial lawyer must know how the case will be tried in court, and before which judge
1.       Find out from the court clerk, judge’s law clerk, and trial lawyers who have tried cases there
2.       Go watch a case being tried there

                                                                                                                                      ii.      Thinking about other things
b.       Limited interest in learning
                                                                                                                                       i.      Many don’t like the “school” feel of the courtroom
                                                                                                                                      ii.      Don’t like learning, unless there is a self-interest
c.        Limited channels for learning
                                                                                                                                       i.      TV has given a major impact on how to expect new learning
1.       Fast, painless, interesting, and visual
d.       Perceptions of “evidence”
                                                                                                                                       i.      Any information is relevant to their decision
1.       Formal introduction of evidence
2.       Beliefs & attitudes about life
3.       Effective Messages
a.       Must be attuned to reality of the listeners
b.       Must have an effective structure
c.        Memory
                                                                                                                                       i.      Limits effective communications
                                                                                                                                      ii.      Average person forgets most communication within the first few hours
                                                                                                                                    iii.      After 2-3 days most of it is gone
                                                                                                                                    iv.      Memory strategies are key
d.       Simplification strategies
                                                                                                                                       i.      Psychological Anchors
1.       Mnemonic devices to help remember the gist of what they learn – mental highlighters
2.       Themes for lawyers – memorable short phrase that summarizes large bits of information
3.       Triggers more info later
e.        Visual learning
                                                                                                                                       i.      Listeners retain only 10% of info after 2-3 days
                                                                                                                                      ii.      Visual messages 20% in the same time frame
                                                                                                                                    iii.      Retention is much larger if both visual and aural methods are used
f.        Powerful language
                                                                                                                                       i.      Active voice
                                                                                                                                      ii.      Good speech rate and volume
                                                                                                                                    iii.      Plain English with diction
                                                                                                                                    iv.      Present tense
                                                                                                                                     v.      Vivid descriptions
g.        Preparing witnesses
                                                                                                                                       i.      Teach to use sensory language
                                                                                                                                      ii.      Have them use diagrams (show rather than tell)
                                                                                                                                    iii.      Taught to create emotional messages (good or bad)
h.       Increasing Memory
                                                                                                                                       i.      Repetition – 3-4 times
1.       More is better, but you have to modify it
                                                                                                                                      ii.      May forget details, but will remember impression they had at the time
i.         Using “cues”
                                                                                                                                       i.      Simple verbal or visual warning that something important is about to happen
                                                                                                                                      ii.      Tone of voice, pregnant pauses, body language, rhetorical questions, etc.
j.         Order effects
                                                                                                                                       i.      Where a message is placed will affect retention