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Trial - MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
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Trial

From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges

TRIAL

Most of the issues at trial will be ruling on evidentiary issues. Many of these evidentiary issues can be dealt with prior to trial with the parties agreeing to stipulate to admissible evidence and undisputed facts and then resolving pre-trial motions on contested issues. This can significantly streamline the trial. JURY INSTRUCTION GUIDELINES Jury Instruction Guidelines are very helpful. Also special jury instructions drafted by the attorneys and finalized by the Court are very helpful.

EXHIBITS

Juror should be given a copy of all agreed upon admissible exhibits pre-marked in a handout or binder at the beginning of trial. Thus any reference to an exhibit during opening statements or at any other point in trial can be correlated to the actual exhibit. This is a time-saving procedure. The Court can inform the jury in pre-trial instructions that certain exhibits have been deemed to be admissible and that the jury may use these exhibits in making their determinations in the case. It is suggested to mark all non-original exhibits with “COPY” to distinguish from original exhibits. These procedures may not work in every case. Also the timing of when documents and exhibits are presented to the jury in each case will be different. At a minimum there should be a copy of the exhibits for the Judge (generally originals should be kept with the Judge), a copy for the Judge’s clerk, a copy for the Jury, and a copy for each party.

TRIAL SCHEDULE

It is recomended that the Court pre-determine when witnesses will be called. A proposed trial calendar can be adopted either at the pre-trial conference or at the onset of trial. For example:

Monday AM- Jury Voire Dire and Selection

Monday PM- Initial Jury Instructions and Opening Statements

Tues AM- PL Witness X

Tuesday PM- PL Witness Y

Wednesday AM- DEF Witness A

Wednesday PM- DEF Witness B

Thursday AM- PL Rebuttal Witnesses

Thursday PM- DEF Rebuttal Witnesses

Friday AM- Any Directed Verdict or Similar Motions?

Friday PM- Closing Statements and final Jury Instructions

USE OF TECHNOLOGY/EMLO/LAPTOPS

Attorneys should notify the court in advance (preferably at the pre-trial) if they intend to use courtroom technology. The attorney intending to use such technology should determine if the necessary equipment is available in the court house where the trial will be held. If it is not the attorney should be required to bring such technology to the court room. The attorney should be required to inform the Court 1. If they are trained in the use of such technology and if they are not, then 2. Who will be available and in the courtroom to operate such technology. Such technology should be tested immediately before trial to determine that it is in fact operable. The Judge should inform the parties at the pre-trial that the failure of technology to work at trial will generally not be a basis to continue the trial.

DEMONSTRATIVE EVIDENCE

Evidence that is offered as demonstrative evidence should be photographed or in some other way preserved for the record, such recording should be made a court record.

TRIAL PROCEDURE AND JURY MANAGEMENT

A. The jury should be informed of the days and hours of trial, B. The jury should be given an explicit method of communicating a need for a break during testimony, i.e. Raise your hand, C. The jury should be given note pads and instructed on how to use them and where to leave them during trial D. The jury should be instructed on what to do during bench conferences i.e talk with your neighbor, about anything except the case, stand and stretch, E. The jury should be instructed that they can bring beverages (with a top on the container into the jury box. F. The jury should be provided contact information, including the name of a specific person who will answer phone calls or e-mail if a juror has a problem coming to court during trial, for instance their own illness or the illness of a family member, G. The Court should determine if any juror has transportation, work, child care, or other possible time conflict, while being on the jury. Normally this should be discussed during jury selection but the court should go over this again immediately prior to the commencement of the trial.


DIRECTED VERDICT

If a party has a directed verdict or potential directed verdict motion, the Court should require the party to submit the legal aspects of the potential directed verdict motion to the Court in a trial brief if possible. This should preferably be 30 days prior to trial. However, sometimes a party will not know in advance that a directed verdict motion is possible. There should be no surprises at trial. Inform the attorneys of this expectation early on – perhaps even in the scheduling order.