Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How To Try a Lawsuit--Part Two

In preparing to walk into court on the first day of trial you should have already prepared and submitted a trial brief.  Unless there is a "standing order" from the trial court, or a local rule of court this document is pretty free form.  At a minimum it should tell the court in concise, non-purple prose, what your case is about, what witnesses you intend to call and what exhibits you intend to offer.  If there are pending motions relating to the presentation of evidence these should be summarized.  MOST IMPORTANTLY YOUR PROPOSED JURY INSTRUCTIONS SHOULD BE ATTACHED.

Jury Instructions which are now codified (written down) for nearly venue, should be the first place all lawyers go in preparing a case for trial, because the jury instructions provide a precise bluepirnt.   The jury instructions applicable to your case tell you what you as a plaintiff are going to be required to prove; and provide a blueprint for you as a defendant, what you are expected to refute, or in the case of "affirmative defenses" prove.   The instructions also lay out what the burden of proof in the case are and more importantly how credibility is to be assessed by the jurors when they have an opportunity to deliberate.  Why is this important to the lawyers?  Precisely because this establishes what sort of testimony or cross examination will impact the juries evaluation of your case.  Folks, this is good stuff, and if you know in advance what the Judge is going to tell the jury at the end of the case, you will know how and what to shovel onto the scales of jsutice.

It's astonishing to me the widespread disuse of these reference tools by advocates.  Genuinely if more lawyers spent an hour or so, at the outset of a representation of a client looking at the jury instructions that pertain to the case they were handling for a client wheel-spinning would cease.

As you know my friend Laura is preparing to try her first lawsuit, I know, she prepared her lawsuit, properly.  She's going to be a great lawyer!  I'm very proud of her.

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