What I Learned from Jury Duty About Closing Arguments

This is the final of a four-part series (part I, part II, part III) by guest-blogger and attorney Tim Hallahan:

Earlier this year I sat as a juror on a five-week murder trial.   Here are some of the lessons I learned from debriefing my fellow jurors and from my own experience as Juror #101.

  • Provide a roadmap of your closing. People aren’t used to getting their information from long lectures or sermons anymore.   To keep jurors attentive and focused throughout your closing, give them an outline at the top and then remind them where you are in your presentation at each juncture.  PowerPoint can help.  Enumeration can too—e.g.,  “There are at least eight areas of reasonable doubt in this case….” Continue reading

What I Learned from Jury Duty About Introducing Exhibits

Here’s the third  installment of a four-part series (part I, part II, part IV) by guest-blogger and attorney Tim Hallahan:

Earlier this year I sat as a juror on a five-week murder trial.  Here are some of the lessons I learned from debriefing my fellow jurors and from my own experience as Juror #101.

  • Use exhibits strategically. The exhibits in this case were very important, as was the ability to display them effectively during trial.  Both attorneys did their best to make sure we could see the exhibits that were referred to.  But there were too many exhibits, and they were used in a rather disjointed fashion.  It was distracting and confusing.  Plan ahead to be sure you’ve focused on the essence of the case in 1) your selection of exhibits and 2) the witnesses you will use to introduce and explain them.
  • Stress the hard evidence. There were 22 witnesses in our case, and, though no one seemed to be outright lying, it was difficult to determine which testimony was credible.  On the other hand, the tangible evidence—especially cell phone records—was unassailable.  Figure out in advance the best way to present the best evidence; stress it during your closing argument. Continue reading

What I Learned from Jury Duty About Opening Statements

Here’s part II in a four-part series (part I, part III, part IV) of CEB blog posts written by guest-blogger and attorney Tim Hallahan:

Earlier this year I sat as a juror on a five-week murder trial.  Here are a few lessons I learned from debriefing my fellow jurors and from my own experience as Juror #101.

  • Give an opening statement. Jurors want to know the big picture.  Because we all hate ambiguity, we depend on a narrative into which we can fit everything we hear.  The DA provided that storyline, that cognitive map.  I found myself viewing and interpreting the evidence to match that narrative.  I gave credibility to witnesses whose testimony fit the map.  The defense attorney forfeited that opportunity by giving no opening statement.  Even if he didn’t know whether or not he would put on a defense, or didn’t want to provide the defendant’s version because of ethical concerns, he could have pointed out all of the holes in the DA’s case, e.g., no murder weapon, no eye witness, no gun shot residue, no motive, etc.
  • Use visuals in your opening. The DA’s opening statement was compelling in large part because he used visuals throughout.  As he told the story, he showed diagrams of the scene and photos of the main characters. The large TV screen opposite us was a useful tool, as was his use of PowerPoint and an Elmo on counsel table.  In a case like this, with multiple events and witnesses, a time line would have been a great addition.   During deliberations, we had to create our own time line. Continue reading

What I Learned from Jury Duty About Voir Dire

This is the first in a four-part series (part II, part III, part IV) of CEB blog posts by guest-blogger and attorney Tim Hallahan.

Earlier this year I sat as a juror on a five-week murder trial.  It was a dream-come-true opportunity for a trial-skills teacher like myself to see the process from the jury’s eyes.  A month after the trial, we jurors met for dinner to discuss the experience.  Here are a few lessons I learned from debriefing my fellow jurors and from my own experience as Juror #101.

  • Respect and facilitate the jury’s role in the process. The court system has made significant strides in “the care and feeding of jurors.”  Everyone from jury assembly room staff to judge and courtroom staff was patient, pleasant, and respectful from day one.  Continue reading

Facebook Hacking

It is clearly a crime to hack someone else’s computer. In addition to criminal penalties, Pen C §502 provides that the hackee who suffers loss or damages from a violation of the statute has the right to bring a civil action against the violator for compensatory damages and injunctive relief. But what about hacking into someone’s Facebook or Twitter account? Continue reading

Profile in Practice: Tim Hallahan

As part of CEB’s commitment to bringing together California’s legal community, our blog will post a short interview with one of your fellow attorneys.

This week, we profile attorney Tim Hallahan:

CEB: What is your practice area and how did you choose it?

Tim: I began as a public defender. I liked the dynamic practice of trial work, my colleagues, and working with an underprivileged community. I’ve switched to teaching, writing, and producing instructional software. Almost as interesting and a much better lifestyle. Continue reading

Responding to a Cyberattack

What do you do when you or your client is the victim of a cyberattack, i.e., an attack on its computer system or network? This is becoming a more and more pressing question, as a RAND Corporation study finds the frequency of cyberattacks on American companies is increasing, with the average hacker attack costing about $500,000. Because cyberattacks usually occur without warning, leaving website operators insufficient time to assess and respond to the situation, you need to have a plan in place before any attack occurs.   Continue reading

The (Incomplete) Gift That Keeps on Giving

The estate tax is repealed for estates of decedents dying in 2010, but the gift tax remains in effect for lifetime gifts in excess of $1 million. Under current law, any transfer in trust is treated as a transfer of property by gift, unless the trust is a grantor trust for income tax purposes—including transfers that are incomplete gifts for gift tax purposes. See IRC §2511(c). 

Some practitioners fear that §2511(c) could be construed as treating an entire transfer to a charitable remainder trust as a gift—including the annuity or unitrust interest retained by the donor. This is an absurd result from a tax perspective, and practitioners expect the issue to be resolved soon. But until it’s resolved, steer clear of charitable remainder trusts in which the donor retains the annuity or unitrust interest.

For more on charitable remainder trusts, see Drafting California Irrevocable Trusts, chap 18 (3d ed Cal CEB 1997).

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One Prong or Two? What Is a Defendant’s Summary Judgment Burden? 

The following is a guest-blog post from attorney and CEB author Michael Denison:

The California Supreme Court in Aguilar v Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 C4th 826, 107 CR2d 841 clarified many unresolved questions about summary judgment motions. However, it also opened at least one new controversy regarding summary judgment motions brought by defendants. The supreme court opined that a moving

defendant has shown that the plaintiff cannot establish at least one element of the cause of action by showing that the plaintiff does not possess, and cannot reasonably obtain, needed evidence . . . .

Some plaintiff’s counsel rely on this language to argue that Aguilar establishes a two-prong burden that must be met by the defendant before the burden shifts to the plaintiff, i.e.,  (1) plaintiff does not possess needed evidence, and (2) plaintiff cannot reasonably obtain it.  I disagree. Continue reading

Profile in Practice: Michael C. Denison

As part of CEB’s commitment to bringing together California’s legal community, our blog will post a short interview with one of your fellow attorneys.

This week, we profile attorney and one of the authors of CEB’s new Summary Judgment book, Michael C. Denison:

CEB: What is your practice area and how did you choose it?

Mike: I am a civil litigation trial lawyer, with an emphasis on business litigation and defending professional liability and civil RICO cases. Over the past thirty-five years, I have represented clients in almost every type of civil litigation. I began defending lawyers many years ago and enjoy having lawyers as clients because they understand the legal process, including the costs and risks associated with it. In more recent years, I have defended civil RICO cases, which always have unique and challenging issues. Continue reading

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