LegalYou: Witness & Exhibit Lists

Even though it makes for great drama, surprises in court are not encouraged.

The time leading up to trial should be spent in preparation. Not only so you know what to expect, but also the court itself. No aces up the sleeve, or rabbits in a hat, or that long colorful napkin magicians pull out of their throat.

Every judge is a little different but most will require you to prepare a list of witnesses and exhibits that you plan to use at trial and to require both you and your opponents to exchange these lists.

A judge’s pretrial order will spell out what’s required for witness lists. Usually, you must provide the full name of each witness along with their full address. So hopefully, you won’t have to call a nomad to be a witness. Often, the judge will require more than a list of the names of your trial witnesses.

For example, the judge might also require you to generally describe or summarize what subject matters each witness will be testifying about. An exhibit list must contain a basic description of each piece of evidence you’re using.

All numbered, whether it’s electronic like an email or physical like a car part or a rhinoceros. Also remember, it’s your right to ask to see your opponent’s exhibits and you should exercise that. You never want to be caught off guard by an adversary.

Not only that, but if your opponent tries to call a witness or use an exhibit that’s not on the list, you can object and the court may disallow that evidence. Sometimes, the judge will require even more to help streamline the trial.

For example, the judge may require that you and your opponent write down the facts and law that you both agree on. That agreement is called the pre-trial stipulation. Once your exhibit list is set, most judges ask that each exhibit be pre-marked, which just means the items should be labeled with their own letters and numbers for easy identification in court, and remember, make copies. You should have at least three copies of any document you intend to offer as evidence.

One copy for you, one copy for the other party, and one copy for the judge. If you need any additional help with your witness and exhibit lists or anything involving a case, you can count on LegalYou.

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