The Process—What Happens After Discovery
In our last blog, we took a look at the steps necessary to initiate a lawsuit—the filing of a complaint and an answer. We also briefly discussed the discovery process, where the parties seek to gather all evidence that might potentially be used at trial. To understand what happens next in the legal process, we need to talk just a little bit more about discovery.
In the American legal system, we adhere to the principle of “open discovery,” which means that all the evidence available to one party must also be available to other parties. This principle stems from the belief that the most just result comes when parties prepare their cases with knowledge of all the relevant facts.
One of the key components of discovery is the deposition. At a deposition, a witness is sworn in and can be asked questions by attorneys for all parties. A court reporter commits the testimony to writing, and the deposition also can be videotaped. During the deposition, though, the rules of evidence that apply in court are not followed. Accordingly, lawyers may ask questions that typically are not allowed in front of a jury. If opposing counsel objects, the objection and the grounds must be stated for the record. However, the witness may still answer the question. Because the deposition is closed, there’s no risk the objectionable testimony will be heard by the jury.
If the same testimony were elicited at trial, though, it could be problematic. Even though a judge can instruct a jury to disregard testimony that violates the rules of evidence, the damage may already be done, as the jury has heard (and can’t “unhear”) the evidence. Accordingly, once discovery is complete, the court will schedule a hearing to rule on the admissibility of potentially objectionable evidence before the trial begins. If an attorney subsequently introduces evidence that the court has ruled inadmissible, it may be grounds for a mistrial or even sanctions against the attorney.
Contact the Cintron Firm
At the Cintron Firm, LLC, we offer more than 14 years of experience to people in New Jersey facing a broad array of legal challenges. Attorney Mark Cintron has worked as a prosecutor and has extensive courtroom experience, so he’s always ready, willing, and able to protect your interests before a judge or jury. We are currently available to talk with you by phone, text message, or online videoconference. Contact our office online or call us at 201-791-1333 or (201) 535-0323 to set up an appointment.