Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

In The Family Part Of The Superior Court of New Jersey, This Is How Our Attorney’s Prepare For Trial

In over 20 years of family law and divorce practice here in my hometown of East Brunswick, New Jersey, I can assure you that we strive to settle our cases. However, it is essential that your lawyer will not “blink” when our adversary states, “we shall have trial.”

Following you shall see how the zealous and diligent attorneys at our law firm prepare for trial. As the old lawyer cliché says, “Preparation is everything.”

TRIAL PREPARATION

ORGANIZATION AND PREPARATION ARE KEY

60 Days Prior to Trial

  1. OUTLINE ISSUES TO BE TRIED
  2. POSITIONS to be taken en each issue
  3. Outline the admissible FACTS supporting each issue
  4. Outline the LAW supporting and opposing your position on each issue
  5. THE THEMES OF THE CASE – Treat it like a story so it unfolds for the judge in a meaningful way
  6. TESTIMONY
  7. Using bullet points, outline a summary of each witness’s testimony
  8. Using bullet points, outline cross of each witness to be cross-examined
  9. Note each exhibit that supports or undermines each witness’s testimony
  10. COURT ORDER
  11. Review each
  12. Summarize the salient points of each
  13. Determine the interplay of the orders in the trial (in your case in chief and on cross of adverse witnesses likely to be presented in your opposing counsel’s case in chiefEXPERT REPORTS
  14. Review each in detail
  15. Summarize the highlights of each and the factual foundation of each opinion
  16. CERTIFICATIONS
  17. Review each in detail
  18. Summarize the important statements in each
  19. Note each statement that can be attacked and note in your summary of the testimony of that witness
  20. DEPOSITION TRANSCRIPTS
  21. Review each in detail
  22. Summarize the important statements and note the page and lines
  23. Prepare to use for impeachment in cross-examination by noting the pages and lines and purpose in your testimony summary above
  24. Look for areas of impeachment or inroads opposing counsel might be able to make in your witnesses’ testimony
  25. THE LAW
  26. Review all applicable statutes
  27. Review all relevant case law
  28. Review evidentiary issues likely to arise and prepare a bench memo on each to give to the judge if and when such issues arise
  29. TRIAL EXHIBITS
  30. Assemble and make four copies of exhibits based on your prep work
  31. Pre-mark exhibits in the most likely order in which they will be presented
  32. Put exhibits in a binder (one for you, one for opposing counsel, one for the judge, and one for the witness)
  33. 30 Days Prior to Trial
  34. TESTIMONIAL QUESTIONS
  35. Write out/type the questions you’ll ask each witness from your outline
  36. WITNESS PREP
  37. Give client a copy of each certification he/she signed
  38. Give client a copy of his/her deposition transcript
  39. Give client a copy of the exhibit book 30 days prior to trial for familiarization and to review
  40. Suggest that the client visit the courtroom (if he/she hasn’t been there before), especially to witness an ongoing trial if that’s possible
  41. Meet with each witness, both lay and expert witnesses (meeting with the client only after he/she’s had time to review his/her copy of the exhibit book you’ve given him/her
  42. You or someone else in the firm should direct exam questions to the client
  43. Have someone in the firm cross the client
  44. Include objections and arguments in the prep
  45. Consider having someone serve as the judge
  46. MOTIONS IN LIMINE
  47. Consider preparing motions in limine on issues that can be addressed in that fashion, whether evidentiary or in limitation of testimony of potential witnesses
  48. Consider the feasibility of a 104 hearing on evidence that might be excluded or to try to prevent an expert or lay person from testifying, e.g., based on weaknesses in a report that go to more than the weight of the evidence (e.g., the very foundation of the report and opinion) or an inability of a witness to have perceived the subject of his./her testimony
  49. 20 Days Prior to Trial
  50. MEETING WITH OPPOSING COUNSEL
  51. Discuss documentary exhibits that can be stipulated into evidence (e.g., tax returns, W2’s, pay stubs, relevant bank account statements, deeds, mortgages and notes, etc.)
  52. Final discussion of settlement of the case or at least issues within the case
  53. TRIAL NOTEBOOK
  54. Work with your paralegal or an associate (if you have one) to put the physical trial notebook together in a logical order with tabs and a table of contents
  55. 7 Days Prior to Trial
  56. TRIAL BAG
  57. Court Rule Book
  58. Book of Rules of Evidence
  59. Highlighters
  60. Colored pens
  61. Pre-ruled legal pads (if not using computer)
  62. An extra legal pad for your client to take notes on (as you’ll instruct your client not to tug on your sleeve as your asking of a witness but rather to write down his/her thoughts)
  63. Stapler
  64. Hole punch
  65. THE NIGHT BEFORE TRIAL
  66. GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP THE NIGHT BEFORE TRIAL STARTS!