Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

do judges make sua sponte objections for pro se parties?

I will very soon be in trial (pro bono) against a pro se par aspiretoretire11/20/17
Unfortunately judges cater to pro se people and absolutely i shikes11/20/17
thx aspiretoretire11/20/17
My experience with CA family court is that hearsay gets in a guyingorillasuit11/21/17
As always, gigs is right on point. I once had an attorney tr thirdtierlaw11/21/17
Good advice! metsfan11/24/17
My experience with complex commercial litigation is that hea midlaw11/28/17
Well put TTL. The "Don't be a jerk" is an especially good bittersweet11/21/17
Trial is over. Thanks for the help everyone. I probably s aspiretoretire11/22/17
Yup. Welcome to trial work. midlaw11/28/17
Probono. ...made that mistake a few times... .. esquire13811/27/17
aspiretoretire (Nov 20, 2017 - 8:19 pm)

I will very soon be in trial (pro bono) against a pro se party. Opposing party (OP) is barely English literate, and certainly has no idea about legal procedure.

Can I introduce exhibits that, for example, would be clearly hearsay? Or would this piss off the judge?

I believe that the OP is planning on bringing a litany of "documents" to the court. If I (validly) object to these as hearsay etc., would that piss off the judge? Given that I would then later potentially introduce things that would also be hearsay, but that the OP wouldn't know to object to.

Side question: is there any way I can get in stuff like bank statements, credit card bills, etc, if the only witnesses are my client (respondent) and the pro se petitioner? The OP agreed to stipulate over the phone, but if the judge questions him, I'm not sure whether he will "take back" his stipulation...he may.

Domestic Relations court in Colorado.

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shikes (Nov 20, 2017 - 9:36 pm)

Unfortunately judges cater to pro se people and absolutely intervene to make objections in my experience. It drives me insane, but thats just how it is.

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aspiretoretire (Nov 20, 2017 - 11:49 pm)

thx

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guyingorillasuit (Nov 21, 2017 - 12:38 am)

My experience with CA family court is that hearsay gets in all the time. Even if you object, the judge will still review the documentary evidence. Then, even if the objection is sustained, the judge has already seen it. Do not count on documents being excluded. Plan your strategy around everything being admitted or at least being reviewed by the judge.

I have never seen a judge make an evidentiary objection. I think that crosses the line from being a neutral to being an advocate for one party over the other. It will not look good for the judge if the case is appealed.

If your judge is a stickler for the Evidence Code, tell him you are not offering documents into evidence that are clearly hearsay. Instead, tell the judge that you are using these documents to refresh the witness's recollection, and hand a copy of the "recollection" document to the judge, so that he can follow along. If you do not ask for the documents to be admitted into evidence, there is no sustainable objection.

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thirdtierlaw (Nov 21, 2017 - 7:15 am)

As always, gigs is right on point. I once had an attorney try getting credit card statements and bank statements excluded.

This was one of my first cases, it hadn't even crossed my mind that someone would try keeping it out as hearsay. Not that my zero asset client could afford to serve subpoenas to all the custodian of records and get affidavits anyway. (My state hasn't caught up to the machine to machine federal rule yet)

I start breaking out in a cold sweat. I had already laid an "insufficient" foundation for the bank statement. So the court knew what the document was, I asked him to refresh his memory, he repeated the line item I wanted. I essentially start "refreshing his memory" through the whole document. The judge turns to opposing counsel and asks, "is this really necessary? We will be here all day." That attorney then stipulated to the admission.

I then try getting the first credit card statements admitted, "objection!" I start the process all over again. I then just got to the chase for the next batch of credit card statements, "Mr. X exactly how much do you owe on your Amex card?" "I cant remember, if I could see my last Amex statement I could tell you." "Would seeing your last Amex statement refresh your memory?" "Yes" "Your honor I am now showing plaintiff what has been marked for identification, plaintiff's 5."

The judge looks at opposing counsel again and says, "are you kidding me? This is how you want to spend our time?" She then stipulated to all credit card statements coming in.

Two lessons I learned that day. 1. Family court is a bit of wild west. The judge didn't doubt for a second that my client's "refreshed recollection" was 100% accurate. They just want the facts necessary to split the property, no matter how they get it.

2. Don't be a jerk. The judges will turn on you in a second if you unnecessarily make things more difficult.

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metsfan (Nov 24, 2017 - 7:32 am)

Good advice!

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midlaw (Nov 28, 2017 - 1:51 am)

My experience with complex commercial litigation is that hearsay gets in all the time. It has to be something specific and prejudicial to keep it out at trial.

I understand the criminal world is different, but civil cases would be largely untriable if judges took hearsay objections too seriously. And they don’t.

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bittersweet (Nov 21, 2017 - 4:27 pm)

Well put TTL.

The "Don't be a jerk" is an especially good idea when going up against a pro se opponent. You have a huge advantage in terms of knowing the law over your opponent. But if you rub his face in it, you will come off as "the bad guy" in the eyes of the judge and or jury.

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aspiretoretire (Nov 22, 2017 - 8:46 pm)

Trial is over. Thanks for the help everyone.

I probably stressed over admissibility too much. I got him to stipulate to authenticity, he obviously didn't object to anything, and the judge didn't do so on his behalf, so things got in that almost certainly could be considered hearsay.

I made one objection on his cross that 100% would have been sustained if he had counsel, but was shot down without a second thought, so I didn't push it trying to object later on. Surprisingly, he didn't try to introduce any surprise evidence

Got the permanent orders already-solid result.

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midlaw (Nov 28, 2017 - 1:52 am)

Yup. Welcome to trial work.

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esquire138 (Nov 27, 2017 - 12:46 pm)

Probono. ...made that mistake a few times...
..

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