This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
TheStreet Open House

How to Handle a Hostile Witness

The following is a transcript of " The Legal Lad's Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Lawful Life, " a podcast from QuickAndDirtyTips.com . The audio program is available via RSS feed here and at TheStreet.com's podcast home page .

Hello, and welcome to Legal Lad's Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Lawful Life.

But first, a disclaimer: Although I am an attorney, the legal information in this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for seeking personalized legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Further, I do not intend to create an attorney-client relationship with any listener.

Today's topic is hostile witnesses. Mario from Davis, Calif., called and asked:

On TV shows like Law & Order, whenever someone asks the judge if they can treat the witness as hostile, I always wondered what that entails, and what the lawyer is allowed the ask the witness?

Thanks Mario. While common in TV shows, designating a witness as hostile is rare in actual courtrooms. The short answer is that a hostile witness is subject to different rules for direct examination by an attorney than other witnesses.

In a normal trial, both parties call witnesses to testify as to facts or theories that support that party's theory of the case. Normally, the witnesses that each party calls are not considered hostile because those witnesses are presumed to be friendly to the side calling them.

For example, an employee suing an employer for harassment might call a co-employee to testify about working conditions. That witness is presumed to be friendly and helpful to the employee's case.

Normally, all witnesses called by the opposing party are presumed hostile. This is typically due to the adversarial nature of the American justice system. So, an officer of the company defending itself against the harassment suit is likely biased toward the company and will testify in the company's best interests. So, the officer is automatically a hostile witness to the employee's case.

However, sometimes a party will call a witness that is either unwilling or reluctant to testify. For example, a manager of the company might be unwilling to testify about the officer's discriminatory behavior because the officer might retaliate. If the manager gives evasive answers, or treats the employee's attorney contemptuously, then the attorney can ask the judge to deem the manager a hostile witness.

In cases where children are called as witnesses, they are often reluctant to speak in the intimidating environment of a courtroom. Or, a child who was the subject of physical or sexual abuse might not want to talk about his experiences. The trial judge has broad discretion to determine which witnesses are hostile, and which are not.

1 of 2

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 16,399.67 +19.26 0.12%
S&P 500 1,904.01 +17.25 0.91%
NASDAQ 4,316.0740 +57.6360 1.35%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs