Clients are always nervous about giving testimony in court and with good reason By Angela Oaks

by News Editor
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on 17 May 2017
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Clients are always nervous about giving testimony in court – and with good reason:  it’s a very stressful situation.  

 

Below are the top 10 pointers that I share with my clients before a contested hearing that will require testimony.

  1. When answering, always tell the truth. You are under oath, the truth is always easier to remember than a story, and if you are caught lying, your reputation will be damaged in the eyes of the judge or jury.
  2. Listen to the question. If you do not understand the question, ask that it be repeated.
  3. Answer only the question asked. If you are asked if you have a college education, do not explain how you chose your major and then paid for your education.  Keep it short and sweet unless your attorney asks you to elaborate.
  4.  “Yes,” “No” and “I don’t know” are acceptable answers.
  5. Take your time when answering, and if an attorney stands to object to a question, do not answer!  While you may not need time to formulate your answer, your attorney may need a couple seconds to object; so count to two, and if no one objects, answer away.If an objection is made, wait for the judge to make a ruling (“overruled” or “sustained”) before you proceed.
  6. Do not answer questions with questions. This can give the judge or jury a negative impression, or cause them to see you as a smart-alek.  Only the lawyers and judges are allowed to ask questions in the courtroom.
  7. Do not let the questions or demeanor of the opposing attorney affect you or your demeanor.  The judge and jury are watching your every move.  Something as simple as an eye roll can leave the wrong impression. Keep your cool, be courteous, and stay calm.
  8. Answer each question out loud. The court reporter needs to make a record of each question and response, and she will not see you shaking your head.
  9. Never testify that you did something because your attorney told you to, unless your attorney has told you this is allowed. This information is protected by attorney/client privilege, and you may waive that privilege if you testify about it.
  10. When sitting at counsel table, only pass notes to your attorney.  Don’t try to talk to your lawyer at counsel table:  1) the judge can hear everything you say and 2) your attorney is trying to listen to testimony, and whispering or tugging at his/her jacket may cause your attorney to miss an objection.

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