Very few events are more gratifying for an attorney than winning at trial. In order to stay sharp and confident, trial practice techniques bear periodic review. Important details be quickly obscured in the whirlwind of a court appearance whether in-person or on line. In her presentation, Top Trial Tips, Judge Pamela Pulley who is Presiding Judge in Santa Ana, gave an excellent overview and checklist at the 2020 DWC Educational Conference. The below are a couple of her tips.
Know your issues. Narrow the scope to those areas of your strongest evidence. Prepare the Pre-Trial Conference Statement, garnering your evidence along the way, well ahead of time, perhaps even from the time that the file is opened.
Burden of Proof
As your trial date approaches, be prepared the meet your own burden of proof and insist that your opponent's burden of proof is met. The burden of proof rests upon the party holding the affirmative of the issue. This means that until the Applicant presents a case for injury, the defendant is not required to respond. The same holds true for lien claims. The lien claimant must make a case before the defendant is required to respond. However the defendant has the burden to put on the defense after the initial burden is met. The defendant also bears the burden of proof for affirmative defenses. The burden is not the criminal standard, "Beyond a reasonable doubt." The standard is "preponderance of the evidence," or "more likely than not."
Now for a couple of my own tips.
Witnesses in an AOE/COE Trial
1.) Allow your witnesses' testimony to show their lack of bias. All the better if they no longer work there or they have sold the business and just want to testify to make sure that the truth is told.
2.) Make sure you have the full story from your witnesses.. Make sure any "secrets" come out before the trial.
3.) Make sure your witnesses know how to get to court or use Lifesize.
4.) Make sure they know what issues you expect their testimony to address. Let them know what the Applicant's attorney will be asking.
5.) Discuss Applicant's deposition testimony, history of the injury, earnings allegation, job duty disputes, etc.
6.) Familiarize the witnesses with how to give testimony, such as deference to the Judge, answering the question asked, not rambling or volunteering.
7.) Ask you witnesses to take photos to explain their testimony.
When your witnesses, testify, let them tell the story. It is their business and they know better than the attorney.
There is so much more to trial strategy but these are just a few of the very basic practices which have held me in good stead over the past 30 years of trying cases.
Compromise is not failure. Know your file...and your opponent. Be reasonable. Be prepared. Be professional. Keep your perspective. - Judge Pamela Pulley, Santa Ana Presiding Judge