AuthorJustice Gerald Lebovits
§19:10 Def‌inition and Purpose
§19:20 Order of Closing Argument
§19:30 Scope
§19:40 Procedure for Objecting During Closing
§19:50 Recording Closing Argument
§19:60 Matters Not in Evidence
§19:70 Demonstrative Materials Not in Evidence
§19:80 Commenting on Failure to Testify
§19:90 Injecting Self or Personal Belief; Vouching for Witness Credibility
§19:100 Reading or Arguing Law
§19:110 Personal Attacks
§19:115 Appeals to Sympathy
§19:120 Racial, Political, or Religious Comments
§19:130 Wealth, Poverty, Self-Interest
§19:140 Collateral Sources
§19:150 Settlement
§19:160 Specif‌ic Damage Award
§19:170 Unit of Time as Measure of Damages (Per Diem Argument)
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19-3 Summation §19:30
§19:10 Def‌inition and Purpose
At the close of all the evidence on the issues tried, an attorney for each party may make a closing statement.
CPLR 4016. During closing statements, counsel places before the court the party’s major contentions, summarizes
and claries the evidence adduced at trial, and attempts to persuade the fact nder that the evidence supports that
party’s position. Summations may also provide an opportunity for counsel to guide the nder of fact in evaluating
and computing damages.
In a criminal trial, a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel guarantees the defendant’s right to give a
summation, even in nonjury trials. People v. Harris, 31 N.Y.3d 1183, 107 N.E.3d 541 (2018); People v. Bragg, 161
A.D.3d 998, 77 N.Y.S.3d 435 (2d Dept. 2018).
§19:20 Order of Closing Argument
In general, the parties make their closing arguments in reverse of the order used during opening statements.
CPLR 4016. e privilege of opening and closing a case is a substantial and important right given to the party
having the “armative of the issue,” or in other words, the party who has the burden of proving the case. Heilbronn
v. Herzog, 165 N.Y. 98, 58 N.E. 759 (1900); De Vito v. Katsch, 157 A.D.2d 413, 556 N.Y.S.2d 649 (2d Dept. 1990).
is is usually determined by the trial court, with reference to the pleadings. Lake Ontario Nat. Bank v. Judson, 122
N.Y. 278, 25 N.E. 367 (1890); De Vito v. Katsch, 157 A.D.2d 413, 556 N.Y.S.2d 649 (2d Dept. 1990).
us, the plainti normally holds the right to open rst and close last. See Heilbronn v. Herzog, 165 N.Y.98, 58
N.E. 759 (1900); De Vito v. Katsch, 157 A.D.2d 413, 556 N.Y.S.2d 649 (2d Dept. 1990) (right to open rst). How-
ever, a defendant who has the burden of proof may open rst and close last, but such right must be asserted. See Koo
v. Robert Koo Wine & Liquor, Inc., 203 A.D.2d 180, 611 N.Y.S.2d 4 (1st Dept. 1994) (defendants waived any right
to open rst by failing to object or to request to be permitted to do so pending court’s decision as to which side had
burden of proof, and by armatively agreeing with court that decision could be postponed until close of evidence).
If several actions have been consolidated, the trial court generally has discretion to determine which party has
the right to open and close, given the circumstances of the case. Rockaway Boulevard Wrecking & Lumber Co. v.
Raylite Elec. Corp., 25 A.D.2d 842, 270 N.Y.S.2d 1 (1st Dept. 1966); Crescent Puritan Laundry Co. Inc. v. McNamara,
254 A.D. 646, 3 N.Y.S.2d 492 (4th Dept. 1938). In exercising that discretion, the court may either:
Allow the party exercising the greater diligence in prosecuting its action to open and close. Rockaway
Blvd. Wrecking & Lbr. Co. v. Raylite Elec. Corp., 25 A.D.2d 842, 270 N.Y.S.2d 1 (1st Dept. 1966).
Give that right to the party rst to commence its action. Grimm & Davis v. Goldberg, 101 Misc.2d 829,
422 N.Y.S.2d 319 (Civ. Ct., Kings Cnty., 1979).
PRACTICE TIP: After summations, the court may not change the jury instructions it stated it would deliver.
A defendant is deprived of the right to an effective summation where the court informs the parties of the
charges that it intends to deliver and, after summations, changes the instructions. The court, however, may
undo any prejudice by informing counsel of the change and permitting counsel to reopen summations. People
v. Nunes, 168 A.D.3d 1187, 90 N.Y.S.3d 694 (3d Dept. 2019).
§19:30 Scope
Trial courts are required to interpret the permissible scope of closing arguments broadly. us, in addressing a
jury during closing, counsel may comment on every pertinent matter of fact bearing on the questions to be decided
by the jury. Braun v. Ahmed, 127 A.D.2d 418, 515 N.Y.S.2d 473 (2d Dept. 1987). e court commits prejudicial
error if it restricts counsel from commenting within the four corners of the evidence during summation. Novikov v.
Zamdborg, 79 A.D.3d 833, 913 N.Y.S.2d 295 (2d Dept. 2010); Kasman v. Flushing Hosp. and Med. Ctr., 224 A.D.2d
590, 638 N.Y.S.2d 687 (2d Dept. 1996); Braun v. Ahmed, 127 A.D.2d 418, 515 N.Y.S.2d 473 (2d Dept. 1987).
Counsel also has a right during summation to place before the jury the contentions of the parties as stated in the
pleadings. e statements, admissions, and allegations in the pleadings are always in evidence for all purposes at trial.
ey are made for the purpose of trial, are before the court and jury, and may be used for any legitimate purpose. Holmes
v. Jones, 121 N.Y. 461, 24 N.E. 701 (1890); Braun v. Ahmed, 127 A.D.2d 418, 515 N.Y.S.2d 473 (2d Dept. 1987).

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