Trial Advocacy

Watching Amy Phillips

November 8, 2014 D.C. Superior Court

She is assertive without being aggressive. She knows when to push and when to hang back. She is pleasant and well-spoken. She does her homework. She is committed to her clients while keeping a sense of humor. As an avid student of the law, she is always ready to talk things through with you. She […]

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Sometimes I Think The Stenographer Is Out To Get Me

November 6, 2014 Trial Advocacy

I read every transcript I can get my hands on, including my own.  My office mate at the Philly PD’s office used to give me a hard time about that – he thought I was being vain. But he may have been giving me more credit than I deserved.  Sometimes you are proud of how […]

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It Is All About Respect

October 26, 2014 Law Practice

The judge takes the bench at 9:15 am. That she does this every day without fail is a sign of respect for herself, for the system, and for every person who appears in front of her. And it makes my job easier too: Make sure you are there no later than 9:00 o’clock, I tell […]

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In Defense of a Well-Timed Stink

September 21, 2014 Trial Advocacy

Clients love the courtroom theatrics. There was a criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia – I will call him Larry — who could put on the best show you have ever seen.  Larry was fearless and he was funny.  He would talk back to the judge.  He would dress down the prosecutor for interrupting him:  “You […]

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Pinning Down An Elusive Cop On Cross-Examination

June 24, 2014 Trial Advocacy

Q:            You testified on direct that the defendant approached you. A:            Define when you say approach. Q:            I am sorry? A:            Define what you mean when you say approach. Q:            Officer.  Unless I am mistaken, it was you who used the word approach.  On direct.  Am I wrong about that? A:            No.  No, I guess, […]

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On the Benefits of Restraint During Cross-Examination

April 16, 2014 Trial Advocacy

I am sitting in JM-15 watching Jessica Willis of the Public Defender Service cross-examine a police officer during a probable cause hearing. Willis is firm with the officer. She is also pleasant, reasonable and restrained. At one point the officer tries to qualify a response. “If you put it that way,” he testifies, “yes.” Willis […]

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Pozner and Dodd on “Constructive Cross-Examination”

March 5, 2014 Trial Advocacy

It is what we see on T.V. and in the movies. It is what our clients expect of us. And, providing us with war stories to tell our friends and colleagues, it is lots of fun to do. This is the tearing down of the opponent’s witness on cross-examination. We confront the witness. We force […]

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What We Learn About Our Colleagues

February 8, 2014 Law Practice

We feel like we know our colleagues. We know who the good ones are and we know who the bad ones are. But that is based mostly on reputation. We spend a lot of time together in the courtroom waiting for our cases to be called. But we rarely see each other at trial. Trials […]

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The “Gracious Concession”

February 4, 2014 Trial Advocacy

It is great when things are going well on cross-examination and you can string out one helpful tidbit after another for maximum impact.  During the cross-examination of a police officer in a DUI case, for example, this might be taking advantage of what Lenny Stamm has referred to as the “white part” of the police […]

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Pozner and Dodd: “The Only Three Rules of Cross-Examination”

January 26, 2014 Trial Advocacy

Much of what I needed to know about cross-examination came from a one-hour training session at the public defender’s office in Philadelphia early on in my career.  Fred Goodman led the session. You use short, declarative sentences, he taught us, to tell your side of the story. You use a rhythm and cadence in which […]

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