May 07, 2018 Practice Points

Tips from the Bench: Objections

An experienced trial judge to offers tips on when and how to object

by Michelle L. Alamo with Hon. Sean F. Cox

This bar year, the Trial Evidence Committee is asking experienced trial judges to provide their insight regarding certain aspects of trial. This installment focuses on Objections, with the Honorable Sean F. Cox, U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan and former Judge of the Wayne County Circuit Court in Detroit, Michigan.

What is the most important factor attorneys should keep in mind when objecting?
How the objection impacts their credibility with the judge and, most importantly, the jury. When I was a young lawyer, I was very fortunate to work with one of the top trial lawyers in the state of Michigan, Jeremiah Kenney. Jerry stressed that the only time to object was when the testimony was hurting your case or to preserve the trial record.

What is the most common mistake you see with objections?
The most common mistake I see with objections during trial is overuse. When an attorney constantly objects during the course of the trial, the jury is wondering what the attorney is trying to hide. Many good lawyers who do not have trial experience will object to every question where there is a basis for an objection. Trials are not depositions; juries want to hear testimony with as little interruption as possible. Constant objections during the course of a trial, even to questions that are objectionable, will frustrate the jury.

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