Everyone has watched courtroom television dramas unfold in which a fictional attorney stands up in courtrooms and witness by loudly exclaiming, “I object!” Next, the opposing counsel scoffs, and mutters something under his breath, while the judge decides whether to allow the testimony (this is overruling the objection if the witness is allowed to continue). On television, a scene like this certainly serves its dramatic, cinematic purpose, but when you are in an actual courtroom proceeding, understanding the most common objections will help you be a better-informed litigant and more fully relay your “story” to the court. This is key since a court needs to fully understand the facts to make a fair and accurate decision under the law. This blog addresses the most common objections: hearsay and relevance.
Hearsay is any out-of-court statement (not made in the court proceedings by a person, not a party) introduced to prove the truth of the matter asserted by the statement. For example, if a witness testifies in a divorce, “My friend saw and heard the child (of the marriage) say he/she wanted to live with__________”, this statement is hearsay, objectionable, and should be stricken with the right and timely objection. Without such an objection, a trial court judge may rely on this in making a custody determination. An objection to such a statement is justified because the person who allegedly made the statement is not present, making cross-examination and establishment of credibility of the statement impossible. There are, however, many exceptions to the rule against hearsay. The key point is if a person has key information in your case, he or she should be subpoenaed to trial to testify.
The second objection is based on relevance and is appropriate when either the question asked is not such its answer can in some way relate to the issues being argued about at trial. Because trial court judges are entrusted with weighing what testimony is credible and which is not, relevance is a lower showing; evidence is relevant if (1) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence, and (2) the fact is one of consequence in determining the action. Thus, as a litigant (party) or witness, a good way to think about relevance at trial is to be prepared to succinctly tell the court what facts are related to the issues at hand and why. There are circumstances when relevant evidence may be excluded, particularly in criminal cases, where such may prejudice an impartial jury and thwart a fair trial.
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys handle civil and criminal matters at the state and federal level; and its attorneys are highly versed in trial procedure and practice, including when and how to utilize and make proper objections at trial. To make your best case to attempt to reach your legal objective by the court’s ruling, or prepare for the contingency of appeal, understanding objections as a litigant is important to getting evidence before the court in a permissible way. The Court cannot consider what you “might have said”. A court is limited to the testimony and exhibits presented to it. This blog post is written for general informational purposes and is not intended as specific legal advice nor a solicitation for services. This is an advertisement.