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Trial Magazine Review Civil Jury Trials by Tyler Draa et al
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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 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.


Vanessa Cotto recently became a Midwest regional manager in the AAJ membership department and previously was an attorney with Hogan Frick in Orlando. She can be reached at
JAG The Reporter Reviews Civil Jury Trials by Tyler Draa et al
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JAG The Reporter: Book Review, by Thomas G. Becker


hen my son was a defendant in personal injury litigation about 16 years ago, his lawyer—actually, the insurance company’s lawyer—prepared him for the process as follows: “Look, we’re going to do a Kabuki dance for a few months, and then we’re going to settle for sixty-K.” The lawyer’s prediction was spot on. About ten years ago, my wife was the plaintiff in a personal injury case with similar predictions from her attorney (although for a much smaller amount); he was also on target. A few years before that, we were visiting my wife’s family and I saw one of my law school classmates in a television ad promising that, if you would only hire him for your personal injury case, he would force the insurance company to cut a fat check and—I swear this is an exact quote—“You won’t have to go to court, I guarantee it!” Really? You can guarantee a good settlement without the possibility of going to court? Maybe my old buddy meant to say, “I won’t go to court, I guarantee it.”

This is a book about preparing for and conducting civil jury trials. It is not about “civil litigation.”


The reality of civil litigation in America is that the Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury in civil cases has suffered an erosion of landslide proportions. Attorneys calling themselves “trial lawyers” are in visual media everywhere you look. They are in television ads, on billboards(1), and even on the sides of the Zamboni machine at pro hockey games(2). However, few of them are trying cases to juries, largely by their own choice(3). The costs of litigation, time involved, uncertainty of either winning a contingent fee (for plaintiffs’ attorneys) or avoiding a big verdict (for defense attorneys), and the proliferation of ADR options— Alternative Dispute Resolution or, as some are calling it, Appropriate Dispute Resolution—combine to remove the incentive for lawyers to go to a jury trial in civil cases. Unless, of course, a jury trial is the only way your client, plaintiff or defendant, can get a shot at achieving that elusive and highly subjective notion of “justice”(4).

For those cases, there are a dwindling number of lawyers still out there that specialize in civil jury trials. It’s our good fortune that three of them, with the help of a judicial veteran of the civil bench, have collaborated on Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials: A Strategic Guide Outlining the Anatomy of a Trial, an entertaining guide for newer lawyers who have a yen to join this evermore-exclusive club.


This compact volume (only 177 pages without appendixes, organized into 25 short chapters) is the principal work of Tyler Draa, a retired U.S. Naval Reserve judge advocate and prominent civil defense lawyer in San Jose, California. With contributions from Doris Cheng (San Francisco plaintiff’s attorney and a regular visitor to the JAG School for advocacy teacher training programs), Maureen Harrington (one of Draa’s law partners), and The Honorable Franklin E. Bondanno of the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara. Draa et al. have produced a user-friendly guide that should be required reading for any attorney contemplating dipping a toe into the civil jury trial waters. As a bonus, it’s also chock full of solid advice for any trial lawyer, even if his or her practice is limited to criminal cases whether by courts-martial or in federal or state courtrooms.

There are two things about Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials that immediately jumped out at me as different from most of the litigation treatises out there. First, this is a book about preparing for and conducting civil jury trials. It is not about “civil litigation.” There isn’t a single word about discovery or pretrial motion practice, except in the context of the trial. As the authors make clear in the book’s introduction, Draa and his colleagues intend this book to bridge the mentoring gap that has resulted from the drastic reduction in civil jury trials. Fewer trials mean fewer experienced trial lawyers to help new lawyers learn the ropes, a gap that continues to widen with each generation. The second thing about the book that stood out to me is made clear by the book’s subtitle: A Strategic Guide Outlining the Anatomy of a Trial. This is a metaphorical 30,000-foot view of the civil trial. There isn’t a lot of detailed “how to” tactics. Draa and company have chosen instead to send bigger and more important messages to the budding trial lawyer.

This strategic approach emphasizes a global understanding of the civil trial process. It is in stark contrast to other trial “manuals,” such as one on criminal trials I reviewed in an earlier edition of The Reporter(5). Such opera magna, while very thorough and detailed on everything that may come up in trials, can be unwieldy. For those ambitious manuals, I have recommended practitioners first skim the contents, familiarizing themselves with the topics and organization, and then return for more detailed reading as needed or when time permits. For Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials, I recommend the opposite—sit down and read it straight through, which may be done in just a few sittings. This is such an easy read, with so many valuable insights, you won’t want to set it aside for very long until you’ve finished.

Foremost among those insights is the authors’ emphasis on civility and ethical treatment of everyone involved in the trial. There are sharp condemnations of such venerable shyster tactics as the “speaking objection” (i.e., the objection is just an excuse to argue to the jury, or worse, give a witness clues about the preferred answer) and using rebuttal to sandbag opposing counsel with new evidence. One chapter is entitled “Opposing Counsel: Colleague First, Adversary Second.” This should go without saying, but it needs to be said and I’m glad the authors say it. A cornerstone of any trial (civil, criminal, military, or civilian) is civility among opposing counsel. If you don’t have it, the trial becomes a cacophony of tit-for-tat reprisals over trivial slights and the clients’ interests get drowned out by the noise. This emphasis on civility often separates real trial lawyers, like Draa, Cheng, and Harrington (and, no doubt, Judge Bondanno in his life before the bench) from many of the swaggering TV “litigators” that equate effectiveness with red-meat rhetoric that demeans their opponents and, as a result, the entire process.

In another chapter, “Establish Your Courtroom Footing,” the authors emphasize the importance of getting to know, and treating with courtesy and respect, all court administration personnel. I learned this in 1975 as a first-year law student and part-time clerk at a firm in Topeka, Kansas. I’m amazed at how many attorneys I’ve seen abuse the folks that run their courtroom tech support, control access to the judge or, for a lawyer running up the courthouse steps, may or may not delay a few seconds past five o’clock before locking the clerk’s office door. Civility is the trial lawyer’s safety net—if you’re a jerk, you’re working without one so you’d better be good. And no one is that good. In Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials, Draa et al. stress the importance of ethics and civility at every opportunity.


ISBN 9781939454423While Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials is, of course, directed at civil trial practitioners, Air Force attorneys should not dismiss it as inapplicable to our practice. Some Air Force attorneys, both military and civilian, do get to represent the United States in civil trials from time to time. Even if your practice is limited to courts-martial, this book has solid advice about presenting cases to juries, whether they’re called that or answer instead to “Members of the Court.” A few pet peeves of mine, in any trial, are overuse of PowerPoint and other complicated demonstrative aids, redirect and recross examinations as yo-yo contests that don’t add anything to an attorney’s case, and objecting or cross-examining just because you can without regard to your theory of the case. Draa and company address these, plus a lot more, giving the newly minted trial lawyer the lessons learned from decades of courtroom mistakes they’ve seen and made themselves.

The one weakness of Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials, to which the authors freely admit, is its California emphasis. All the authors practice or preside in California so the rules and case law they cite are Golden-State centric. The authors, however, are assembling appendixes (partially completed when I read this advance review copy) listing federal and state authorities on peremptory challenge of judges—I didn’t know you could do that!—use of animations and other simulations as demonstrative evidence, and other common issues in civil trials. While it’s likely the majority of purchasers of Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials will be California lawyers, the completed appendices will broaden the book’s appeal.

[Editor’s Note: The appendices encompass all fifty states and are presented in all final editions, including a heavily linked eBook to the source of each statutory authority, as well as all cases cited throughout the book. Visit for more information.]

In this book, however, the specific legal issues that might come up during a trial sit second chair to common sense and sound trial fundamentals. These values aren’t limited to any single jurisdiction. Last time I checked, anyway.

Mr. Thomas G. Becker, Col (Ret), USAF (B.A., Washburn University; J.D., Washburn University School of Law; LL.M. George Washington University School of Law) is the Academic Director for The Judge Advocate General’s School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.


(1) At a recent lecture I gave to allied nations’ officers attending an International Officers School course, one of them asked me, “Who is this [name of personal injury lawyer prominent in Alabama and the Florida panhandle]? My God, his picture is everywhere!”
(2) I’m not making this up. I have a photo taken by my daughter at a Washington Capitals game.
(3) See, e.g., Joe Forward, The Disappearing Jury Trial: Implications for the Justice System and Lawyers, Inside Track (Wisc. State Bar, Madison, Wisc.), Mar. 19, 2014.
(4) As it says on a small plaque I have on my desk, “Too often we want justice—just for us.”
(5) Tom Becker, How to Try a Murder Case: Pretrial and Trial Guidelines for Prosecution and Defense, 38 The Reporter 61 (2d ed. 2011) (book review).

FLORIDA-BAR-JOURNAL-REVIEWS Civil Jury Trials by Tyler Draa et al
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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.

Published by Balcony 7 Media and Publishing, the softcover book is 275 pages, including appendices. [Visit for more information.]

Barbara Ballard Woodcock of Marco Island is a member of The Florida Bar.


CMC Magazine reviews Civil Jury Trials by Tyler Draa et al
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CMC Magazine Reviews Civil Jury Trials

Featured in Claremont McKenna College Magazine (Winter 2016)

What to Expect in the Courtroom

Where do I stand? How should I address the bench? Tyler Draa ’78 offers valuable help to young lawyers in his new book on trial procedure.
By Tom Johnson

Tyler G. Draa (’78), had one simple purpose in mind when writing Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials: A Strategic Guide Outlining the Anatomy of a Trial—it was to “pay it forward.” The book, published this year by Balcony 7 Media and Publishing, is a fitting capper to a 30-plus year career as a civil trial lawyer, most recently as a partner with the firm, Greenfield Draa & Harrington LLP in Santa Clara County, CA.

Despite its rather unwieldy title (there’s even a second subheading: “Bridging the Mentor Gap”), the book has created quite a stir in the legal community and is being used by many as a “how-to” guide—and surrogate mentor—for young lawyers inexperienced in preparing and participating in jury trials.

“Trial lawyers primarily learn their craft through apprenticeships and opportunities to try cases,” Draa says. “The gifted mentor knows when to push the apprentice off the pier, when to jump in, and when to let the aspiring lawyer swim back to shore on his or her own.”

The idea for the book came about from another CMC graduate, Draa’s own son Justin ’04. In 2009, Justin was asked by the law firm that employed him to defend a jury trial. The principals of Justin’s firm were friends and colleagues of his father and were familiar with his jury trial record—primarily in civil litigation defense. “They invited me to lay out the mechanics of trying the case and to otherwise help Justin and a second lawyer prepare for trial,” Draa says. “I jumped at the opportunity, sketching out a three-day lecture/presentation. Time flew by as I didactically described the process.

I filled in the procedural and strategic gaps that none of us are taught in law school.” Word soon spread about Draa’s preparations, and he presented his “course” as a courtesy to other lawyers. “I discreetly gave the course to some newly appointed jurists,” he says. “I assembled a panel comprised of plaintiff lawyers, a commercial law specialist and active judges to give annual presentations to the Santa Clara County Bar Association members. (We consistently attract a full capacity crowd.) The syllabus began to look like a book and several publishers expressed interest.”

Fewer Chances To Try Cases Today

According to Draa, a young lawyer’s first few trials are, at best, daunting; at worst, terrifying. Mentors help young trial lawyers ease into a comfort level learning procedural minutiae, courtroom etiquette, how to “read” the room, and how to think on their feet—all while encouraging them to remain true to their personalities.

Practically speaking, in Draa’s view, young lawyers learn how to try a case after they graduate from law school. It takes from five to 10 trials to become proficient and comfortable with the process.

And therein lies the problem.

“Very few cases now go to trial by jury,” Draa says.

When Draa was starting out in the heart of the Silicon Valley, he says that hundreds of cases proceeded to jury verdicts each year. Today, the situation is dramatically different. Santa Clara County, for instance, has almost two trillion residents, yet Draa says that, two years ago, only 50 civil trials proceeded to verdicts in the Santa Clara County Superior Court.

“Last year,” he adds, “that number contracted to 24 verdicts. Our court only hosted two verdicts during the first quarter of this year. The plummeting number of verdicts is emblematic of experiences in jurisdictions throughout the United States. With no trials, there are no opportunities to try cases. Mentors are aging and retiring. The apprentice system is disappearing. It’s all about the atrophy of opportunity.”

Step By Step

In Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials, Draa and three contributors (Doris Cheng, Maureen Harrington and the Hon. Franklin E. Bondonno) break down the trial process into a series of achievable tasks.

“We have tried to substitute the mentor’s whispered counsel with text,” he says. “We cover competing schools of thought; presenting cases for the plaintiff can require approaches far different than those applicable to defendants. (Although, I am always struck by the vast majority of topics on which we all agree.)”

As to the question of what is the most important aspect of the book for young, untried trial attorneys, Draa outlines four major points:

  • Trials need not be daunting. Always break down the process until you have a task you can handle.
  • Know that trials are never tidy. At best, one can plan and prepare for about 70% of what transpires. When such setbacks as an opponents’ surprise move, a judge’s order, or witness’s develop new strategies, he or she should rip out the corresponding section of the trial notebook, use it to line a bird cage, and get creative. Take measured chances. Every new development presents an opportunity; the trial lawyer has to remain flexible enough to recognize that opportunity.
  • Opposing lawyers have a lot in common. Always strive to remain colleagues first, and adversaries second. “Most endorsements printed in the book were authored by colleagues against whom I tried cases,” Draa says. “I am very proud of that.”
  • Paraphrasing Oscar Wilde: Always be your­ self; everybody else is taken. Developing and retaining credibility with the Judge and Jurors is key to victory. Juries sense and mistrust disingenuous personae. They also abhor hubris.
  • Heretofore, ergo, whereas… and other clogged language

“Effective writing may be a casualty of the digital age,” Draa says. “Students read and write less. They receive and process information through video sound bites. Effective legal writing suffers.” Most lawyers, he says, clog their written information with legalese. Words such as heretofore, hereinafter, ergo, said, whereas, aforementioned—to name but a few—should be stricken from the young lawyer’s vocabulary.”

“The best editing technique is to have a lay person proof one’s briefs,” Draa suggests. “I encourage my wife, Linda, to read my important briefs. She is a ruthless editor; she catches a lot of my ‘legal speak’.”

At CMC Draa majored in Political Science and, by his own admission,was not a standout student. “Through some sort of osmosis, I learned how to reason and write at CMC,” Draa says.”I was encouraged to read and emulate writing styles. Reading such authors as William James and Winston Churchill—and having professors help identify writing devices and style separating great writing from pedestrian communication—was invaluable.”

Among Draa’s own mentors at CMC, Emeritus Professor Ward Elliott stood out as brilliant, engaging and funny. “He is also a stunningly precise writer,” Draa says. “He ruthlessly critiqued my term papers­, which was enormously helpful. I sent Professor Elliot a copy of the book; it took four decades, but I think I have finally written something he likes.”

Draa tells the story that while he was transforming his lecture syllabus into this book, he had an ongoing image of a trial call in which he was just an observer. “I imagined a young lawyer responding with ‘ready’ when the case was called,” he said.”And, on further observation, I imagined our book, selectively dog-eared; slightly sticking out of the lawyer’s trial bag. That would be the indicia of success.”

Now, cut to November 2015 when Draa gave the firm’s annual presentation to the County Bar Association.

“I was navigating through the court’s security line to be a judge pro tem for the day,” he recalls. “I recognized one of the course attendees who was through security. He spotted me, announcing he was responding to trial call. He had the book in hand, raised it for all present to see, and said he had just read it, cover to cover. With a smile on his face, he exclaimed, ‘I’m ready!'”

Now that’s a winning endorsement!

Tom Johnson, writes and blogs for various publications, including People Magazine. Visit for more information on the book and the attorney authors.
Lincoln Law School, The-Gavel-Reviews Civil Jury Trials by Tyler Draa et al
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Lincoln Law School, The Gavel: Book Review

Book Review: Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials

By Clifton Wester, 3L

This strategic guide offers a primer for law students or budding attorneys. The guide is a mentor-in-a-briefcase for attorneys representing either plaintiff or defendant. The sequential layout is logical and includes sage wisdom and common-sense strategy. Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials (Balcony 7 Media and Publishing, October 2015) is also a fascinating read. It provides a real-life glimpse inside the mechanics of courtroom procedure and sheds light on the nuances and strategies of the civil justice system.

“Every young lawyer should carry this practice manual in his or her briefcase as it is a step-by-step guide on how to try a case-from pre-trial briefs, to the use of challenges, to the opening statement and development of a theme. The manual includes everything from a guide to introducing evidence to closing argument. This book should be a Bible for every trial lawyer-to-be. Most importantly, it is a common-sense guide on what to do and when. It is the food you eat to undertake the trial journey. Unfortunately, we are not teaching these lessons in law school today.” —Joseph W. Cotchett (Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy in San Francisco, CA).

Tyler Draa, recently retired partner of Silicon Valley litigation firm Greenfield Draa & Harrington LLP, is a front man of sorts for the dynamic team whose experience sets forth the anatomy of a trial. The Honorable Franklin E. Bondonno, of the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, provides judicial commentary. Co-authors Maureen Harrington (partner at Greenfield Draa & Harrington) and Doris Cheng (Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger in San Francisco), are among the highest ranked women lawyers in California.

As an attorney, Mr. Draa’s practice focus is primarily professional liability. He principally defends health care providers, but also lawyers, insurance companies and personnel, as well as other professionals in lawsuits and administrative proceedings. Throughout his legal career, he has tried over 70 cases and is also an appellate lawyer with more than a dozen published decisions. Currently, he teaches trial practice courses through Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs and has participated as an instructor for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA) Masters of Trial program. He currently volunteers to assist as adjunct faculty for the University of San Francisco Law School’s Intensive Trial Advocacy Program.

The staff of the Gavel had the opportunity to meet and interview Mr. Draa at the offices of Greenfield Draa & Harrington shortly before the release of Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials. He shared with us that his motivation for writing the book was his son. His son and a young partner were preparing to try their first case, and they asked Mr. Draa to give them some pointers. He replied, “It will take days,” they said fine. He decided to write the do’s and don’ts from his prospective. Once he began to put together a quick study guide, he realized that he could be on to something. So he assembled a 3-day course in his garage for the two of them. His quick study guide became larger. It was then that he thought “this could be a book,” and today his first book is the product of that project, initiated by his desire to help his son defeat his first opponent.

Tyler Draa feels that his target audience is the young, fresh J.D. graduate, preparing to litigate his or her first trial. Due to the almost instant notoriety of his quick study guide, he thought what a joy it would be to see a first time litigator standing at the counselor’s table with a copy of his work in his or her possession. He also sees this book as one that an attorney would give to his client to read in order to help explain the process.

Tyler Draa pulled his team together by asking Judge Bondonno if he would critique the draft. His Honor contributed by providing many comments. He felt that his way of doing civil trials was only one perspective; a defense attorney’s style is procedurally and philosophically quite different. So he reached out to Doris Cheng in San Francisco. Ms. Cheng liked it and he asked her to contribute and she was very amenable. Tyler Draa realized that he needed to include the commercial approach, so he enlisted the help of Maureen Harrington. What he compiled was a plaintiff ’s view, a defense view, and a commercial view with judicial oversight to keep them all honest.

We finally asked Mr. Draa if he was open to conducting a seminar at Lincoln Law School sometime in the future and he stated that he would be happy to. Stay tuned!

Personal: Mr. Draa lives in Santa Clara County with his wife of 31 years. They have three children. He holds an AV Preeminent rating by Martindale Hubbell (a peer-ranking measure of elite status) and is annually recognized as a California Super Lawyer. He is a member of the American Board of Trial Attorneys (ABOTA). Mr. Draa received his B.A. with honors from Claremont McKenna College and studied law at Lewis and Clark Northwestern School of Law, as well as Hastings College of Law. He earned his Juris Doctor degree from the former institution in 1981. Upon graduation, he was appointed as law clerk to the Honorable William Ingram, United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

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Valley Lawyer Reviews Civil Jury Trials by Tyler Draa et al
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Valley Lawyer Reviews Civil Jury Trials

A Mechanical Guide for a Smooth Running Trial

By David Gurnick

In his 1875 book, History of Trial by Jury (James Cockroft & Co.), Scottish lawyer William Forsyth explains that in Europe, a system of “procédure secrète” prevailed. This system of inquisitions, in which judges decided law and fact, was “an engine of grievous injustice.”

Jury trials in civil cases are very important. Alexander Hamilton said the civil jury is a valuable safeguard to liberty (Federalist #83). James Madison said that in civil cases, jury trials are “essential to secure the liberty of the people.” (Madison Papers 12:196–209).

But jury trials are also complicated. In a sense, they have a lot of moving parts, ranging from personalities of judges, to panel members who would rather be elsewhere, to the process of voir dire, presenting evidence, arguments, verdicts and numerous other procedures. So it is apt that the authors of Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials, (Balcony 7, October 2015) continue the metaphor of a jury trial as a complex engine.

This new book, by attorney Tyler Draa with co-authors Doris Cheng, Maureen Harrington and Judge Franklin Bondonno, reads like a user-friendly mechanics guide. Mastering the Mechanics breaks the complexity of the jury trial into basic components. In plain English, with understandable summaries, straightforward instructions, occasional numbered step-by-step directions and real-life examples, the authors describe “how-to” and “what-to-do” from pre-trial, through every step of trial, and post-trial motions and appeals.

The book has chapters on inquiring about and making a peremptory challenge of the judge, and dealing with and relating to opposing counsel (“colleague first, adversary second”). Good guidance is provided for motions in limine and other pretrial filings, conducting voir dire, logistics of trial and evidence presentation, including course of action for direct and cross-examination, and making objections. Settlement, argument and guidance for jury deliberations, verdict and post trial proceedings are also addressed.

Throughout, the book is filled with practical tips that have value to new trial lawyers and are good reminders to the experienced professional: present your own personality and courtroom demeanor (“do not pretend to be someone else”); embrace harmful evidence, transform it into an advantage (“be the first source that reveals it to the jury”). There are fundamental tips for presenting evidence, and even style before the jury (“never be more indignant than the least indignant juror, lest you appear unnecessarily harsh”).

Many chapters include a “Judicial Comment,” providing the judge’s perspective on the subject. For example,

“Trial attorneys often put far less effort into voir dire of alternate jurors . . . And yet, in many cases, an alternate juror serves. You need to be as careful choosing alternate jurors as you are choosing the initial panel members.”

These are valuable tips that could be unknown to newer lawyers, and easily overlooked, even by those with deep experience.

Tyler Draa and his co-authors are very experienced trial and appellate lawyers. Draa, for example, tried over 70 cases and has more than a dozen published appellate decisions. Judge Bondonno was a trial lawyer for 32 years before being appointed to the Superior Court, where he has presided over trials for eight years. A how-to guide by practitioners of this caliber, with this much experience, would be valuable in any field. Mastering the Mechanics does not disappoint.

In 1875, Forsyth could not find the specific origin of the jury trial. But in Tyler Draa’s manual, we know how to master the process now to achieve the best possible outcome. Through this mastery we can tell how the trial is conducted, how we can conduct the trial, and where it is going. Mastering the Mechanics will help any lawyer make the trial engine zoom, to our clients’ advantage.

David Gurnick is with the Lewitt Hackman firm in Encino, California. David can be reached at In the interest of full disclosure David notes that Tyler Draa is David’s cousin by marriage.
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