Mindless objection

 Posted By: je froilan m. clerigo
25-Mar-2008

When we do not think of the consequence of making an objection, that objection sometimes backfires. For instance, an objection that the document will speak for itself, or that the best evidence is the document, sometimes will achieve nothing but make life easier for the opponent. In fact, in most cases, veteran lawyers would deliberately ask questions that will draw these kinds of objections, and most often, the unexperienced lawyer falls into his trap.

Consider what happened in one trial that I was watching. The attorney direct examining starts to ask his witness to identify several documents which, based on where the testimony of the witness was going, show that the corporation the witness represents already paid portions of its loan to the bank. As best as my recollection would allow, the exchange went something like the following:

Q: What happened to the loan of ABC Corp. with XYZ Bank?
A: A part of the loan was paid, sir.
Q: How was the payment made?
A: Everytime an amount on the loan is due, XYZ Bank would debit that amount from ABC's account with the bank.
Q: How do you know that XYZ actually debited the amount?
A: We have the debit memos.
Q: I am showing to you 10 documents. Do you recognize them?
A: Yes, sir. They are the debit memos.
LAWYER:
May I request, Your Honor that the 10 documents identified by the witness be marked as Exhibits 1 to 10 for the defendant.
Q: I am handing to you what had been marked as Exhibit 1. Based on that document, how much did the bank received in payment?
PLAINTIFF'S LAWYER:
Objection, Your Honor, if the document says how much was debited, then that is the best evidence.
COURT:
Sustained, the best evidence is the document.
Q: I am showing to you, Exhibit 2, which is a form similar to Exhibit 1. Based on that document again, how much was debited by the bank?
PLAINTIFF'S LAWYER:
Same objection, Your Honor.
COURT:
Same ruling.
Q: In that case, Your Honor, since my succeeding questions are of similar nature to the one being objected to, I will just read into the records the amounts reflected in each of the exhibits, from Exhibit 1 to Exhibit 10. (The lawyer then proceed to read the amounts in each exhibit.)

What happened? Because of the objection, the evidence got into the records flawlessly and smoothly; it was as if the lawyer himself testified, not the witness. Were it not for the objection, the witness would've had to do it himself. In fact, based on the italicized portions above (which are the words used, as far as my memory goes), the defendant's lawyer may have deliberately attracted the objections, and the plaintiff's lawyer fell for it.

It may be argued that if the witness is intelligent enough, the same result would have happened: the amount of the payments will still be read into the records. Granted. But what if the witness is unschooled? Or even if he is, what if he falters? Then you'll have something for cross-exam. Stranger things happen during trials, so who knows?

More important, the point is that if the same result will obtain either way, why make it easier for the other side to get the evidence in simply because you made a mindless objection? Let the witness and his lawyer stumble a bit.

I recall that it also happened to me when I asked a witness to tell the court what a contract says will happen if the goods, in a trust receipts transaction, are not sold by the trustee. When the lawyer objected on the ground of best evidence, all I did was to read into the records that portion of the contract which said that the goods would have to be returned to the bank (which my witness actually did offer to do, only that it was rejected by the bank).

During trials, who'd do a better job reading a piece of evidence, the cool and composed lawyer or the nervous  and stuttering witness? You know the answer.