Lawyer Struggles With Cross-Examination at Trial

Plaintiff’s attorney: “Officer, did you go to the accident scene?

Officer: Yes.

Q: Did you investigate the scene?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you obtain the names of all those involved?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you speak to each driver?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you run their licenses?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you learn that one license was fake?

A: Yes.

Q: Is that illegal?

A: Yes.

Q: Are there penalties for pretending to be someone you’re not?

A: Yes.

Q: What are the penalties?

A: Fraud, impersonation…

Q: As a result of that fraud did you issue a summons to that person?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you arrest that person?

A: Yes”

This is how the cross-examination should have proceeded, and should have taken less than 30 seconds. Read below to see what happened instead.

__________

Wouldn’t practice of law be great if we did not have to search for new clients? What if these new clients simply beat a path to our door without us ever having to spend any time or energy to tell the world about what we do? That would be ideal.

The reality is that will never happen. just because you went to law school and passed the bar exam does not mean that you have what it takes to help new clients. I was reminded of this basic fact today when I was in court waiting for my case to be called and I was watching a young attorney trying a case.

It was a car accident case and the plaintiff’s attorney was cross-examining a police officer who was on the accident scene. I cringed when I heard the lawyer the question the policeman. The defense lawyer repeatedly objected to the way he was phrasing  questions.

Plaintiff’s attorney tried a few times to rephrase each question, but quickly ran out of steam. He simply did not know alternative ways to ask a question. I felt bad for the attorney.

The lawyer was trying to show that one of the drivers gave fake ID and lied to the officer. The attorney simply could not phrase the question in clear, concise questions. While I recognize that young lawyers have to start somewhere, it is extremely frustrating every time I see it since the jury recognizes inexperience as well.

Sitting in the back of the courtroom watching the attorney fumble his way through basic questions, he also had difficulty getting evidence admitted. He attempted to offer the entire police record into evidence, at which point the defense attorneys immediately asked to see the entire file before either agreeing or objecting to the request.

The three defense attorneys huddled together while they sifted through the file page by page. The agony of watching the plaintiff’s attorney squirm, watch and wait for a decision from the three evil-looking defense lawyers who were trying to keep out every piece of credible evidence was actually fascinating. Here’s why.

The jury was not paying attention to the plaintiff’s attorney or to the policeman on the witness stand. Instead, every juror was focused on the three defense lawyers who were slowly and deliberately pouring over the police file before rendering ‘their’ decision. As a trial attorney, it was obvious to me that all three defense lawyers were intimately familiar with every single page of that file. What they were doing was deliberate and shifted the focus and tempo away from the plaintiff and turned the sideshow to their advantage.

While watching this unfold, I couldn’t help think how the injured victim had chosen this lawyer to represent her in her car accident case in Nassau County Supreme Court in Mineola, Long Island, here in New York.

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