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"OBJECTION JUDGE!" Attorney yells repeatedly at trial. Is There a Limit to Number of Times an Attorney Can Object During a Trial?

The short and technical answer is no.

The smarter answer is definitely yes.

Let me explain...

During a trial an attorney may object for many different reasons.

The key reason an attorney raises an objection is because he senses something's wrong.

It's that spidey sense.

It's that gut feeling that something's out of place.

It's that instinct that you just know something's not right.

Let's go back to the basics for a moment.

What is an 'objection'?

An objection is simply an attorney's way to alert the court (the judge) that there's a problem.

There's a certain formality to how an attorney raises a problem with the trial judge.

An attorney must stand when making an objection.

An attorney must almost shout out the objection.

All this does is alert the judge that the lawyer has a problem.

Maybe there's a problem with the way a question was asked.

Maybe there's a problem with the topic being asked.

Maybe there's a problem with the evidence.

Maybe there's a problem with the exhibit and the demonstration the witness is giving.

There could be tons of reasons why an attorney would object.

Let's say this is a medical malpractice case.

I am now cross examining the doctor whom you have sued.

During my questioning I want the doctor to answer my hypothetical questions.

I am permitted to ask him hypothetical questions.

"Doctor, I want you to assume that Mrs. Jones saw you on January 1 in your office.
I want you to assume that she complained of having a breast lump in her right breast.
She also told you that the lump was at the 12 o'clock position.
Would you agree that good medical practice requires obtaining a detailed medical history on that first visit?"

"OBJECTION JUDGE! I OBJECT TO THAT HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION AND THOSE FACTS!" the defense lawyer yells out.

The Judge says calmly "Objection overruled. Doctor, you are to answer Mr. Oginski's question."

I then continue with the next hypothetical question and the next.

For each of my hypothetical questions, the defense lawyer jumps up out of his seat as if there's a jolt of electricity in his chair every time I ask a question. 

In a voice loud and clear, the defense lawyer screams out "OBJECTION JUDGE! I OBJECT TO THIS ENTIRE LINE OF HYPOTHETICAL QUESTIONS. The facts do not support these questions!" yells my opponent.

The judge, getting frustrated with the defense lawyer says "Your objection is noted and is overruled. Sit down counsellor. Continue Mr. Oginski."

After asking many hypothetical questions, I then reach the culimination of my cross examination.

"Doctor would you agree that a patient who presented with the facts as I've described and a physician who failed to do A, B and C, that would be a violation from the basic standards of medical care?"

You know what's coming next, right?

"OBJECTION JUDGE! I OBJECT TO THIS ENTIRE LINE OF HYPOTHETICAL QUESTIONS. These questions are improper and the facts do not support this line of questions," yells the defense lawyer once again.

The judge, more frustrated than ever with these constant interruptions says "Objection overruled. Sit down counsellor."

It is apparent to everyone in the courtroom that the defense lawyer is doing everything possible to try and prevent his client from having to answer these questions.

The jury starts to wonder.

Why is the defense lawyer trying so hard not to let his client answer these simple questions?

WHAT IS HE TRYING TO HIDE?

That's the question that arises when an attorney repeatedly and vigorously objects to questions during trial.

On the other hand, an attorney making all these objections may believe that he has an obligation and a legal right to raise these objections.

Why?

Because if he doesn't make an objection and he loses the case and then appeals, the higher court will say that he waived his right to appeal that issue if he didn't object during trial.

As an example, again let's focus on a medical malpractice trial.

Let's say the defense lawyer did not object to my hypothetical questions and now appeals the case.

He argues that the jury was swayed by my hypothetical questions and the doctor ADMITTING that if those facts were true, then he clearly was careless.

He says the judge improperly allowed me to ask those questions and the jury improperly heard the answers to those questions.

The appellate court reviews the trial transcript to see if there were errors of law that were made during trial.

If the defense lawyer did not object to those hypothetical questions at the time they were asked, he cannot ask the higher court to change the outcome of the trial.

The appellate court will look at the trial transcript and say "You didn't object to any of Mr. Oginski's hypothetical questions during trial. Because of that, you waived your right to appeal the verdict based on those questions and those answers."

Does that mean that the opposing lawyer has to object to every question I ask?

I hope not!

The trial wouldn't get very far if an attorney objected to every single question.

That would be ridiculous.

It would be burdensome.

It would be frustrating.

It would backfire on the defense lawyer.

The jury would see right though it.

They want to hear the testimony.

They want to see the evidence.

They want to hear the story.

If they keep getting interrupted every few moments with another objection that the judge has to rule on, it becomes tiresome quickly.

Getting back to the headline of today's article, there are NO LIMITS to how many times an attorney can object at trial.

However, keep in mind that just BECAUSE AN ATTORNEY CAN object, doesn't mean he SHOULD.

It's a tactical decision.

Will it make a difference in the outcome?

Will you be able to preserve your right to appeal?

Will the jury be annoyed with your constant objecting?

The reality is that it becomes a balancing act.

An attorney MUST protect his client's legal rights.

Even if it means alienating the jury.

Some attorneys may disagree.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the sheer number of times an attorney objects.

There are some lawyers who will object just to be a pain in the ass.

Some may interrupt the attorney repeatedly to make him lose his train of thought.

It is distracting when I'm trying to ask key questions and the defense lawyer is objecting six times in a row in the span of two minutes.

"Now what the heck was I asking this witness?" I think to myself as the judge makes his sixth ruling on this issue.

To learn more about objections made at trial, I invite you to watch the quick video below.

Then, learn about different trial objections by clicking on the links below...

For your viewing pleasure...

  

 

 

 


Gerry Oginski
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer