Benchmark Institute is a training and performance development organization dedicated to increasing the quality and quantity of legal services to low-income communities.
  Our Training
  Learning Portal
  Best Practices in Learning
  Orientation to Legal Services
  About Us
  Support Us
  Contact Us



Keeping Evidence Out
Objection Planning Worksheet - pdf
Checklist of Common Objections
Leading/Non-Leading Question Cheat Sheet

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 question.

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 = judge;
O = opponent and W = witness.

OYour honor, I object. This evidence is

JYes. Sustained.

AYour honor, may I be heard?


AI would like to make an offer of proof
for the record.

JGo ahead.

AIf my witness was permitted to testify,
he will state (say what the witness would
have testified to). This is relevant to the
case because (state why the evidence is

JO.K., but try to keep it short.