It's a medical malpractice trial.
My client is on the witness stand.
I am asking her details of what happened.
During questioning, my opponent jumps up out of his seat and yells out loudly “Objection judge!" and then proceeds to give a legal explanation for why he thinks my question is inappropriate.
I don't particularly like my opponent.
He's not very pleasant.
He's not courteous.
He has not been pleasant or very respectful during jury selection prior to trial.
I don't believe his objection is a proper one.
I would like nothing more than to simply ignore his outburst and continue asking my client questions and getting responses.
When the defense attorney makes an objection, if I think the objection has no merit, can I simply ignore him and continue asking my question and telling my witness to go ahead and answer the question?
The reality is that any time an attorney makes an objection, the judge must now make a legal ruling.
The proceedings basically come to a halt and now the judge must entertain the attorney's objection.
It might be so obvious that the judge can make an immediate decision.
On the other hand, it might not be so obvious and the judge might ask for the legal reasoning why he believes the evidence should not come in or the question should not be allowed.
Typically, when an attorney makes an objection, he is required to say only a few words to let the judge know what is the legal basis for the objection.
For example, an attorney might yell out “Objection, hearsay.”
Or he might say “Objection, he's leading the witness.”
Or maybe he might yell out “Objection, he's badgering the witness.”
Speaking objections which give lengthy legal explanations in front of the jury are not permitted and are frowned upon.
In the old days, lawyers would object and then give detailed explanations to the judge about why they believed they were correct. Doing this might encourage the witness to answer one way or another and could create the impression that the attorney is trying to signal the witness to answer the question a particular way.
As much as I would love to ignore my adversary's outburst and to talk right over him, the fact remains that I must give the judge an opportunity to make a legal ruling on my opponent's objections.
Any time an objection is made, the judge must make a legal ruling.
This allows us the opportunity to appeal that ruling if we ultimately lose the case.
It protects our clients' right for a fair and impartial trial.
If the judge ruled incorrectly, then an appellate court might determine that a new trial was warranted because the legal ruling was incorrect.
The judge must make a snap decision about whether or not to allow evidence in or permit an attorney to ask a question in a particular way.
When an appellate court reviews the trial court rulings, some of the judge's decisions may be legally incorrect. If they are incorrect rulings, the appellate court then has to determine whether the ruling was harmless error or affected the outcome of the trial.
You will find that really good trial attorneys who anticipate getting an objection to a particular topic or series of questions will come into court prepared with legal cases to support their position.
This is typically known as a trial brief and is designed to help the trial judge understand what the legal issues are and why he should rule in favor of the person who has now anticipated getting objections from the defense.
Here's how that arises during trial...
Let's say a medical expert is on the witness stand and I am asking my medical expert to give his opinions and conclusions about whether a doctor violated the basic standards of medical care. If I know before trial that the questions I am asking my expert are likely going to be objected to by the defense lawyer because they touch on the ultimate question of who, if anyone, is legally responsible, I'm going to do extensive legal research on this issue.
The legal cases will help me show to the judge why our position is correct and the defense's position is incorrect.
When I begin questioning my witness on this topic and the defense attorney jumps up and yells out “Objection, that's irrelevant,” I will now have the opportunity to explain to the trial judge why we believe the question is proper and I will hand the judge my trial brief complete with cases and legal analysis to support my questioning.
The judge will likely be unable to make a snap decision on whether to allow this information in or not.
He may also allow the defense attorney an opportunity to present his own legal cases in support of their objection.
If the judge allows the defense lawyer time to do this, this issue will likely get pushed off until the following day or later that day.
If the judge then evaluates the case law and determines that I am correct, he will tell the jury that the testimony and the evidence has been allowed. If on the other hand, the judge determines that this testimony should not have been allowed in, he will then give an instruction to the jury letting them know the testimony should not have been allowed in and should play no part in the deliberations. He may actually strike the testimony from the record.
The bottom line is that making objections play a very important part in preserving a client's right for a fair and impartial trial.
If an attorney fails to make an appropriate objection at the time that the infraction occurs, he may actually have waived his right to do so if he tries to ask a higher court to review the judge's legal rulings during trial.