Fall 2001, pg. 214. More lessons from the bench.

Maine Bar Journal


Fall 2001, pg. 214.

More lessons from the bench

Maine Bar JournalFall 2001More lessons from the benchTEN TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE OBJECTION PRACTICEDONALD G. ALEXANDERObjection practice in front of juries requires brevity and precision. The objection must be prompt to avoid or limit objectionable material coming before the jury. It must be precise but sufficient to notify the trial court and any reviewing court of the basis for the objection, and it must be brief to assure that the jury hears no improper statement or innuendos about what counsel does not want the jury to hear.

M.R. Evid. 103 is the basic rule governing objections to evidence. It is short and to the point. Key features of Rule 103 indicate that:

þ To be reversible, error must affect "a substantial right" of the objecting party. Objections to admission of evidence must be "timely" and state the specific ground for the objection if it was not apparent from the context. Objections to excluding evidence must make the substance of the excluded evidence known to the court, if not apparent from the context.

þ The court may expand the record regarding the objection and the ruling and can control how an offer of proof is made.

þ Issues addressed pretrial must be subject to renewed offers or objections at trial, unless the court, or the context, indicates a pretrial ruling is final to preserve the point.

þ In addressing objections, counsel must avoid statements which suggest inadmissable evidence to the jury.

þ The court may take notice of "obvious errors affecting substantial rights" even if there was no objection.

The following are some rules of objection etiquette that are important for objection practice in jury trials. They are not listed in any particular order of importance or priority.

Is It Important?

Jurors often attach less significance to potentially objectionable information than lawyers do. An objection can draw jurors' attention to a point like moths to a light.(Fn1) Certainly object at points where the rules are clear and the offered information is potentially harmful. But if the rules are less clear and the tactical advantage uncertain, be cautious.

Objections are a valuable but limited resource. Their use is vital to preserve and protect the client's interest, but used too frequently they can damage the case and compromise the ability to object successfully when you really need to. As Professor(Fn2) Keeton observed in his seminal text, Trial Tactics and Methods, "Many jurors will eventually draw from your persistent objections either the inference that you do not trust the jurors or else the inference that you want to hide everything from them that you can and...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT