Trial Magazine Reviews Civil Jury Trials, The Book
Copyright American Association for Justice. Reprinted with permission of Trial (May 11, 2016), formerly Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA®)
From A to Z: A Comprehensive Guide to Trials
Representing a client before a jury is complex and challenging. Enter Tyler Draa, Doris Cheng, Maureen Harrington, and Judge Franklin Bondonno (visit www.civiljurytrials.com). Their book, Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials: A Strategic Guide Outlining the Anatomy of a Trial, breaks down the jury trial into its basic components and lays out their intent to preserve the (almost) lost art of the civil jury trial. This book reflects decades of collective wisdom and experience of its four authors, all of whom are veteran litigators—and one a sitting judge.
With fewer cases finding their way into a courtroom than 20 years ago (due to external forces such as mandatory arbitration), fewer attorneys are conducting jury trials—and even fewer experienced attorneys are willing to mentor newer attorneys in jury practice. Along with their intent to preserve all Americans’ Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury, the authors attempt to bridge that mentor gap.
The book provides general guidance and tips, from what to do the minute you walk into the courtroom to thanking the jurors after finishing your closing.
The authors cover the major elements of a trial, including pretrial management, motions practice, evidence, direct and cross-examination, and jury instructions. The book also addresses other areas of trial practice, such as getting to know the judge and the courtroom and post-verdict etiquette.
Case studies and real-life illustrations demonstrate how to apply the recommended techniques. Throughout the book, the authors emphasize the importance of thinking on your feet and being prepared for all possible outcomes. They offer advice on being prepared to depart from your planned examination to follow up on a witness’s new information, including paying attention to word use or physical tells such as voice inflection that may open a new direction for questioning.
The authors delve into strategies that could make or break a case, tailored to the lawyer’s experience level. In the chapter on motions in limine, they examine cases that were abandoned or settled because of pretrial evidentiary rulings.
The book also contains helpful checklists—such as the most frequently made evidentiary objections, tasks to be completed before resting your case, and prohibited closing arguments.
The authors are located in California and many of the book’s specifics focus on California laws and civil procedure rules. However, the book includes comprehensive state-by-state appendices listing statutory rulings on the most important aspects of trial, including peremptory challenges, evidentiary hearings, jury instruction, and impeaching experts with learned treatises. The appendices make this book suitable for a nationwide audience.
Whether you are a novice, an experienced trial attorney, or somewhere in between, Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials is an essential read.