September 01, 2015

Trial Practice: A Short Primer on Objections

Stuart M. Israel

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I object, Your Honor! This trial is a travesty. It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham!

—Woody Allen as Fielding Mellish in Bananas (1971)

You can learn something about evidentiary objections from the movies.

In A Few Good Men (1992), trial lawyer Demi Moore renewed an objection and requested a curative instruction. The judge responded: “Objection overruled, counsel.” Demi replied, “Sir, the defense strenuously objects. . . .”

In My Cousin Vinny (1992), Joe Pesci, as novice lawyer Vinny Gambini, objected to the other side’s expert.

Judge: That is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out objection.

Vinny: Thank you, Your Honor.

Judge: Overruled.

There are two important lessons here: (1) It may not be enough to be lucid, intelligent, and right; and (2) adverbs and adjectives are unlikely to save the day. Here are a few more things about evidentiary objections that lawyers ought to know.

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