The Ten Commandments of Cross Examination

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The Devil’s Advocate

In which the curmudgeonly old sod puts the world to rights.

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One of the great pieces of advocacy aboutr advocacy. Anyone who cares for the law should hoover this up.

1st – Be brief

2nd – Short questions, using plain words

Short Questions. Plain words. Again you’ve got to acquire the knack of asking short questions using plain words, because in law school, by and large, you have been practising long sentences using elaborate words. You know, lawyerese. I don’t know why it is that it is a custom among lawyers to speak and write this peculiar dialect of English that is known to nobody else except lawyers. English is an extraordinarily rich language. There are five synonyms for everything. Always one or two of those synonyms derive from the Germanic languages and they are short and punchy. The other words, which mean the same thing, derive from the Latin, and they are long and kind of complicated.

Develop the knack for always choosing the Germanic word.

For five-and-a-half years I’ve presided in that trial court in New York City. ... On the civil calendar the automobile accident was the bread and butter of it. God knows how many I presided over: hundreds, maybe even a thousand. Out of all of those cased and all of those lawyers, ladies and gentlemen, so help me, not once did I ever hear a lawyer use the word “car”. It was always “motor vehicle”. Not once did I ever hear a lawyer say to a witness, “how did you drive your car?” It was always, “what did you then do with respect to the operation and control of your motor vehicle?”

As if they were writing a trust indenture and in any event, that’s no way to write a trust indenture.

3rd – Always ask leading questions

4th – Do not ask a question to which you do not know the answer

5th – Do not allow the witness to repeat his direct testimony

6th – Do not permit the witness to explain his answers

7th – Listen to the witness’ answers

8th – Do not quarrel with the witness

9th – Do not ask the “one question too many”

10th – Save the ultimate point of your cross for summation