July 31, 2018 Articles

Tips for Avoiding the Mini-Opening Trap

Why putting on a "good" mini-opening is the last thing you should do.

By Stephen M. Duffy

Mini-openings—non-argumentative presentations about five minutes long that precede voir dire—have become increasingly common across the country. In fact, California judges now must allow mini-openings if requested by the parties; many go one step further and actively encourage counsel to do them. On its face, having mini-openings makes sense. They provide prospective jurors context about the trial beyond what is typically provided in a statement of the case. This often helps them understand why they are being asked about certain topics and realize the importance of volunteering certain information to the parties. In practice, however, the mini-opening presents a dangerous trap to attorneys. Putting on a “good” mini-opening is the last thing you should do—a compelling presentation makes it harder for you and easier for opposing counsel to succeed in voir dire.

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