Maxim of Law: Qui tacet consentire videturHe who is silent, when he ought to have spoken and was able to do so, is taken to agree.
Objections are fundamental to the process of law.
- don't know when to object,
- don't know what to object to,
- or fail to object in a timely manner...
then you are assumed to be in agreement with what was said.
Even if you do object, your objection can be treated as never having happened if you don't know how to force your objection to be acknowledged on the record.
Raising objections - a key concept in accessing law.
- I am not a lawyer. I don't even have a law degree.
- This is not legal advice. It is my opinion formed from my own experiences and research. Do your own research.
When to object
The proper time to object to any statement (or action) made in court is as soon as you know that you should object.
Since it is your life, liberty, and/or assets on the line (and not your lawyers if you have one) it is very important that you pay close attention to what is being said in court and make timely objections when appropriate.
Also, be sure to pay attention to things being done improperly (setting trial dates before discovery is complete, unlawfully preventing discovery, attempting to rush you to judgment, trampling your rights, etc.) and object to them at once. Get your objections on the record!
This is doubly true for verbal statements made at trial because although your objection can be upheld, the jury will have already heard what was said if you wait too long to object.
Records can be amended but people cannot unhear what has been said no matter how many times a judge tells them to ignore what they have just heard.
What to object to
You should also object to anything being done that seems unreasonable, unfair, or unlawful.
Common things to object to:
- Hearsay - people offering statements made outside of court by someone who is not there in order to prove the truth of something
- Lawyers Testifying - when a lawyer states facts outside of his knowledge (those learned from other people) that are not already on the record (you see this all the time in court tv shows)
- Facts not in evidence - Often, this is the same as a lawyer testifying, but can apply to anyone. If a lawyer is stating things as fact that are not in evidence already (e.g. someone testified to them, evidence was introduced onto the record, they were brought in during discovery or the pleadings, etc.) then you should object.
- Asked and answered - Use this objection when a lawyer is asking the same question over and over (even when phrased slightly differently)
- Not in the pleadings - The pleadings (Complaint, Answer, etc.) determine what the court case is about. They cannot change once done without court approval (e.g. motion to amend, etc.)... and should not be added to or changed during the course of the court process. Don't let people pull the case away from the issues at hand.
- Speculation - Guesses, beliefs, and other speculation is not allowed. Object!
- Relevance - If something is not relevant to your case, it should not be on the record.
There are many other objections, but the above are some of those that are easy to spot and often abused.
Other common objections relate to the following:
- Abuse of process - doing things that are not allowed by court procedure
- Rushing to judgment - moving to discovery before the pleadings are complete, trying to set court dates before discovery has been completed, or doing anything else that fails to give all involved parties time to make their case.
What if a Judge ignores your objection?
If a judge doesn't respond to your objection quickly (e.g. the one you are objecting to goes back to what they were saying) then move the court to have your objection ruled upon. I'll talk more on objections shortly as moving the court is another fundamental thing to comprehend where law is concerned.
This practically forces the judge to either sustain or overrule your objection as failing to do so will be seen as judicial error on appeal... and no judge wants to have their rulings overturned.
Fail to do move the judge to rule on your objection and it will be assumed that the judge didn't hear you and your objection will be ignored on appeal.
What if a Judge overrules your objection?
That is fine. You might be out of line or incorrect, it happens.
Even so, if you believe you are right to object be sure to renew your objection at the appropriate time (see the proper rules of procedure and/or evidence) so that it will be preserved in case you need to appeal to a higher court.
Don't take things lying down
Objections are fundamental to being involved in a lawsuit.
Even if you hire a lawyer (whether for legal advice or to represent you), keep in mind that the lawyer walks at the end of the day no matter what happens.
If you spend a couple of days (or even a few hours) learning about objections and practicing them you might well be able to raise proper objections that your lawyer misses.
There are at least a couple of games out there to help learn objections, but I haven't had the occasion to play them. If you have someone else that also wants to learn law it wouldn't be hard to practice by taking turns giving testimony and having your partner try to spot objectionable statements and raise them quickly.
This is part of my ongoing lawful self defense series ( see the introduction here or the overview on my site ), which I'm writing primarily because I believe that if more of us learned how to access the law we'd live in a better world.
Feel free to ask questions, provide insights, and/or follow me ( @tony.jennings ) if you want to see more articles like this.