Family Law Trials Part II: Day Two
It is 6 am on the morning of the second day of trial. I have been up for hours. When I slept I dreamed of the trial. I am reminded of what it means to live and breathe a case.
We opened our case yesterday. The judge is hard to read, nodding and listening and taking careful notes, but poker faced throughout. Not sure if that is better or worse than a judge whose face can be read like a book. We have all been in front of those kinds of judges – the ones who huff and shake their heads and even glare. Nothing like that here. Inscrutable.
We took our financial expert on the value of the family business next. He was taken out of turn (normally we would have called out client first) because yesterday was the only day he was available. He is booked the rest of the week on other matters in other cities. Popular guy. I can see why. His evidence was clear, understandable to the lay person and even somewhat entertaining – yes accounting evidence was entertaining. I swear. His evidence went in beautifully. He even managed to score some points when cross-examined, raising obvious and incontrovertible errors in the other side’s calculations. A good morning.
We came back after lunch for the examination in chief of our client. She was a little nervous and had to be directed a little bit (all within what is allowed, of course). She wove the tale of her life: meeting her husband and falling in love, having and raising the kid, the heartbreak of her husband’s affair. She told a compelling tale of financial hardship following separation, and her efforts to earn money for herself and the children. And she did not use her “go to” expressions “well, the truth is….” even once. Hurray and nice job.
We broke at 4:15 for the day. Went back to the hotel to catch up with the office and other clients. Had dinner at a local Italian eatery with a nice glass of red. Back at the hotel to prep for today. Checked in at home and spoke to my son. Briefly. Not a big phone talker, my 12 year old.
This morning our client will be cross-examined. We have advised her of the areas we think will be covered. She is ready, we hope. She has been reminded that the other lawyer is not the enemy – he is just doing his job. Don’t fight with him or try to get the last word. Just answer his questions as succinctly as possible. Less is more on cross-exam. She is anxious about it, but I have no doubt she will do well. It is easy to be questioned when you are telling the truth.
I was getting ready for bed last night around 10:30 when the front desk clerk buzzed. The other side had delivered four volumes of materials for the trial and did I want her to bring them up? Did I want her to bring them up? NO! But did I ask her to – yes. And then spent the next hour and a half going through hundreds of pages of documents – some old and familiar and some brand new. Tip to junior counsel: this is not the way to run a trial. Our briefs were compiled and served last week, as they should be. Trial by ambush should be a thing of the past. We will deal with the late delivery and the new materials at the opening of the trial this morning. Not cool.
I am off to dress in my silly get up of court vest, collar shirt with tabs and robe. I like the civility of the ensemble, but it lacks comfort and, dare I say, breathability. Good thing it is fall.