Florida Bar Journal Reviews Civil Jury Trials
Florida Bar Journal Review, Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials, December 2015
Reviewed by Barbara Ballard Woodcock
One of the first things learned in law school is that over the past several decades, the number of civil cases going to jury trials have sharply decreased. A natural result of the decline in cases going to jury trials are less attorneys experienced in jury practice and even less experienced attorneys willing and able to mentor inexperienced attorneys in jury practice.
Enter, Tyler G. Draa, Doris Cheng, Maureen Harrington, and Judge Franklin E. Bondonno. Their manual, Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials: A Strategic Guide Outlining The Anatomy Of A Trial, provides a succinct, easy-to-navigate guide of a jury trial. It begins with basic tenets, such as get to know the judge and courtroom and ends with insights into post-verdict etiquette. The manual delves into all the pieces of a complete jury trial including motions in limine, jury selection techniques, admissibility of evidence, opening statements, direct examination, cross examination, jury instructions, and closing arguments.
The book is easy to understand and provides general practical guidance and tips. It does not contain the draconian language or feel of a traditional hornbook. Beware, the authors are based in California and many of the specifics contained within the manual are based on California rules of law and procedure. However, the manual does include appendices listing other state codes and rules for reference and guidance. (Appendices were not included in review copy so not part of review).
The manual includes case studies and real-life illustrations of the recommended techniques in action. Another unique highlight of Mastering the Mechanics is the practical considerations and guidance from both the plaintiff and defense attorney perspective. It also contains unique insight and advice from the bench—the dos and don’ts of a civil jury trial lawyer. Very beneficial, as many lawyers never get feedback from the judges whom they practice before.
Some of the best highlights:
1) quick reference reminders of forbidden argument at closing;
2) quick reference list of most frequently made evidentiary objections;
3) quick reference checklist and reminders of tasks to be completed before resting case.
Whether you are a new attorney just entering jury trial practice, an experienced jury trial attorney, or in between, Mastering the Mechanics is an essential read that will either get you started on your way to jury trial practice or provide a much needed refresher and new outlook on jury trial practice.
Barbara Ballard Woodcock of Marco Island is a member of The Florida Bar.