Keeping Evidence Out
Objecting is the most common way that you assert
that it is improper to admit certain evidence. An objection must be
timely, neither too early or too late. If you believe that a proper
foundation has not been properly laid for a document, for example, you
should not object until your opponent has tried to lay the foundation. If
your opponent asks a question in improper form, such as a leading
question, you should object immediately after the improper question and
before the witness begins the answer.
Objections must be specific you should state the ground on which you are
objecting. In administrative hearings, your objections will not usually
keep evidence out, but will flag unreliable or weak evidence. Therefore,
you will have to go beyond merely stating your objection's grounds and
argue the underlying rationale for the objection. For example, in court
one could object to a question because it's leading, whereas in an
administrative hearing, you might want to argue that your opponent is
putting words into the witnesses' mouth. In court evidence could be
excluded just by the advocate asserting that it is hearsay, whereas in an
administrative hearing, you will have to state that the evidence is not
trustworthy because you have no opportunity to cross-examine the person
who made the statement.
Objections must be addressed to the judge, not your opponent. Arguments
about the evidence also must be addressed to the judge, not your opponent.
Elements of an Objection
1. Address the judge.
2. State that you are objecting.
3. Specify what you are objecting to word, phrase or question.
4. Specify the legal ground for your objection and its rationale why the
evidence is not reliable or trustworthy.
Your honor, I object to this testimony on the grounds that it calls for
hearsay and is unreliable. The person who made the statements is not here
for me to cross-examine.
Your honor, I object to this exhibit on the grounds that there has been
insufficient authentication. There is no evidence that it's the item my
opponent says that it is.
Your honor, I object to that question because it's leading. My opponent is
testifying, not the witness.
Your honor I object to the question because it's vague. It's difficult to
know what my opponent is asking.
Motions to Strike
If the witness answers so fast that you cannot object properly, you can
ask the hearing officer to strike the evidence. Motions to strike also are
proper if the question is proper but the answer is not. The elements of
motions to strike are basically the same as objections.
Your honor, I move to strike the witnesses' answer, it is not relevant to
any issue here.
Your honor, I move to strike the answer, it is not responsive to the
Offers of Proof
On the rare occasion that a judge rules that you cannot introduce certain
evidence, you should make an offer of proof for the record. You state what
the witness would have testified to and why that evidence is important.
After an offer of proof, the judge may change her mind or the reviewing
court can more easily decide if excluding your evidence was proper.
Throughout these materials, A = advocate; J
O = opponent and W = witness.
OYour honor, I object. This evidence is
AYour honor, may I be heard?
AI would like to make an offer of proof
for the record.
AIf my witness was permitted to testify,
he will state (say what the
have testified to). This is relevant to the
(state why the evidence is
JO.K., but try to keep it short.