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2022 Objections Guidebook, Second Edition, now available to Missouri lawyers

Guidebook gives lawyers a useful tool to improve the presentation of evidence

Objections in the courtroom are an important tool for trial lawyers to know how to wield. These formal protests raised during trial or depositions often seek to encourage a judge to exclude the testimony or evidence of a witness, and sometimes occur in response to the behavior of a judge.  

Rules of evidence exist to help make sure both sides in a civil or criminal case are part of a fair trial with an impartial jury. Objections are how the rules of evidence are enforced during proceedings in a courtroom, govern what evidence is presented, and affect the discussion held at the court of appeal.  

 Preventing a lawyer from telling a witness what to say while asking a question, or leading, is just one of the many rules of evidence that may raise an objection. 

 Other common objections include:  

  • Argumentative questions framed in a way that seeks to persuade rather than obtain information 
  • Violation of the best evidence rule, where a form of original proof is not presented, and a witness cannot provide a valid explanation of what the original proof demonstrates 
  • Incompetency, where a witness is determined to be incompetent 
  • Violation of the hearsay rule, where evidence is based on statements made outside of the courtroom 
  • The form of the question asked, where a question requests an answer beyond the scope of the facts of the trial 
  • If a question is judged to be misleading or suggestive said where it will affect answer of a witness 

 Judge Deborah Daniels and James R. Wyrsch co-authored the Objections Guidebook, Second Edition, to be a compact, accessible handbook suitable for reference in court.  

The revised version updates the Missouri Evidence Handbook, first published in 1996. 

Like its predecessor, the Objections Guidebook explores the prevalent objections made during trial; the recommended forms for objecting; rules, expectations, and factors affecting an objection; special circumstances and subsidiary rules; and exceptions that might be encountered in the courtroom. 

 Trials are often fast-paced and filled with action, so being able to easily access the types and forms of objections, as well as possible responses, is a vital resource for lawyers. 

 “This [guidebook] is a quick reference, with updated citations, to allow you to present the court with a reason to sustain the objection,” Hon. Daniels said. “This is an easy reference that can be carried to court.” 

 Divided into two sections, the Objections Guidebook first provides an overview of objections lawyers can use in trial, then delves into ways to create a record of the objection in criminal and civil cases.  

 “Part one of the guidebook is a quick reference on the initial objection, and part two is a how-to on the preservation of the objection for appellate review,” Wyrsch said. 

 Highlights include an expanded discussion of the constitutional right to confront the witnesses and hearsay; an improved section on introducing expert opinions and the opinions of lay witnesses; and updated case and statutory references with an explanation of the impact on evidence admitted.  

 A new part two that addresses how to preserve an evidentiary objection for appeal is also included. 

 “It is not until the notice of appeal is filed that the litigator’s job is completed with regard to making appropriate evidentiary objections,” Wyrsch said. “There is the initial objection, and then there are written objections to be made to create ‘the record.’” 

 The Objections Guidebook, Second Edition, is available digitally or as a hard copy on The Missouri Bar’s website.