Types of objections

There is nothing more stereotypically tied to the legal profession than a lawyer standing in a courtroom and yelling “I object!” to protest something that the lawyer on the other side is trying to admit to the evidence and the record. The practice is showcased in most legal programs and even made its way into Elle Woods’ video admissions essay for Harvard Law in “Legally Blonde.”

While it has been idealized and featured in a multitude of media, the objection is the attorney’s or attorney’s key weapon to prevent evidence from reaching the record or reaching the ears of the jury. Once it reaches the ears of the jury, it is much more difficult to remove the influence that the objectionable piece of evidence may have.

Before continuing, there are different types of objections. Regardless of the type of objection an attorney raises, it is almost always true that the attorney will have to go beyond simply objecting and saying or arguing why the evidence is objectionable in the first place. Once the objection and its reasoning have been raised, the party wishing to include the evidence has the opportunity to say why the evidence is so vital. Then the judge is tasked with admitting or denying the evidence.

The first type of objection is the “substantive” objection. Substantive objections are based on some particular exclusionary principles in the rules of evidence. These rules can be from the Federal Rules of Evidence or a state version of similar rules. Either way, the objection is based on a principle of exclusion from a real rule. An example of a substantive objection would be raising an objection based on hearsay. Others include attorney-client privilege, rules of evidence of character, and “subsequent corrective action.”

Formal objections are not based on a rule of thumb. They are objections raised by something that is not right in the way of questioning the witness. This could be because the attorney is arguing, annoying the witness, repeatedly asking the same question, or any of a number of different things that are considered to be in bad shape.

Another type of formal objection may concern the leading questions offered by the attorney. Opening questions are questions in which the attorney “guides” the witness during questioning. The problem with leading questions is that they suggest that the lawyer is telling his own story, rather than letting the witness tell what happened. Putting words in the mouth of a witness is a practice that is frowned upon.

The last type of objection is the general objection. This type of objection offers less protection to the attorney’s client than the other types, but is still useful. You can delay the trial long enough for the attorney to figure out exactly what you want to object to and make an argument in your head.

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