Appellate Insights

May 14, 2019 Alana H. Rotter
This One Or That One?

Trial testimony may be perfectly clear to everyone in the courtroom—but appellate judges weren’t in the courtroom.  Make sure to create a record that’s intelligible to someone reading it after-the-fact:

  • When witnesses gesture, translate their gestures into words.  (Witness:  “It was this high.”  Counsel:  “You’re indicating about 5 feet off the ground?”)
  • If an expert discusses a chart, lodge the chart with the court, and have the expert describe which part he or she is focused on instead of just pointing.
  • When discussing jury instructions or verdict forms on the record, avoid statements like “We agree with this one.”   Instead:  “We agree with the version that defendants submitted on [date].”  This can be challenging when counsel and the court get into a rhythm, reviewing a long list of proposals.

►  The practical message:   Keep in mind how the transcript will come across to a stranger who was not in the courtroom—and do you best to make it a vivid picture!