Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Minitrial and CivPro revisited

We're in the middle of mini-trial week one, and I'm essentially done until Spring Break. That's not to say that we don't have Evidence and PC two more times, but I'm done with any afternoon whatnot. In PC these days, it's back to CivPro, with personal jurisdiction and venue filling out the rest of the week. In what I'm sure will make Prof. CivPro proud, I was prepared to use the chicken-on-the-fridge to explain what interpleader is if I had been called on, and today the "north star" of International Shoe kept playing over and over in my head. "If the defendant be not present..." But to compare CivPro to PC is to compare algebra to calculus taught with baseball bats. Yeah, baseball bats. And the Socratic Method.

Now, about minitrial (I'm dispensing with the hyphen; it bothered me.). It actually got fun at a certain point, a point I think happened sometime about thirty seconds into my opening statement. In Direct-and-Cross exercises, you're so paranoid about laying your predicates for your evidence, making sure you say Prof. Evidence's proper mantras verbatim ("We offer defense exhibit one." NOT "We would like to..." etc.), and just not screwing up the general kabuki dance of the courtroom. That is, where to stand, when to speak, and to whom to speak. In minitrial, though, you finally know enough to at least have one evidentiary offer that's natural, that's fluid, that you're not worrying about. The new stress of minitrial, really--at least for me--, was the assload of work anticipating objections and responses to objections.

We know enough hearsay to be dangerous, and enough relevancy to have safe default objections. My favorites? Everything bad is unfairly prejudicial, and every laywitness is improperly giving an opinion. So what's scary is being on objection watch during your opponent's direct or cross. And wouldn't you know it? The objections I had fully briefed, the ones I was begging for them to make, 'cause I wanted the ball teed up for a shot at the green, of course, weren't made. But other ones were. Damn.

Anyway, I've decided I want to be a professional opener-and-crosser. Direct examination is boring, and closings deal too much with the law of the charge. Walking through the instructions? No thanks. You can look forward to my Matt Damon Rainmaker closing in minitrial two, wherein I say that lawyers disgust me so much that I'll just put on a video of my client. With Celine Dion and Enya playing in the background.