Types of Objections
There is nothing more stereotypically tied to the legal profession than a lawyer standing up in a courtroom and shouting “I object!” to protest something the lawyer on the other side is trying to admit to the evidence and record. The practice is shown in most legal shows and even found its way into Elle Woods’ video admissions essay for Harvard Law in “Legally Blonde.”
While it has been romanticized and featured in a multitude of mediums, the objection is the lawyer or attorney’s key weapon to prevent evidence from making it into the record or to the ears of the jury. Once it makes its way to the ears of the jury, it is much more difficult to remove any of the influence the piece of objectionable evidence may have.
Before moving on, there are different types of objections. Regardless of what type of objection an attorney raises, it is almost always true that the attorney will have to go beyond merely objecting and say or argue why the evidence is objectionable in the first place. Once the objection and its reasoning and have been raised, the party that wants to include the evidence is given an opportunity to say why the evidence is so vital. The judge is then given the job of admitting or denying the evidence.
The first type of objection is the “substantive” objection. Substantive objections rest on some particular exclusionary principles in the rules of evidence. These rules can be either from the Federal Rules of Evidence or a state version of similar rules. Either way, the objection is founded on an exclusionary principle from an actual rule. An example of a substantive objection would be raising an objection on the grounds of hearsay. Others include attorney-client privilege , character evidence rules, and “subsequent remedial measures.”
Formal objections do not rest on a rule of evidence. They are objections raised due to something that is wrong with the manner of questioning the witness. This could be that the attorney is being argumentative, badgering the witness, asking the same question repeatedly, or any of a number of different things that are considered to be in bad form.
Another type of formal objection can deal with leading questions being offered by the lawyer. Leading questions are questions in which the lawyer “leads” the witness along in the questioning. The problem with leading questions is that they suggest that the lawyer is telling his or her own story, rather than letting the witness tell what happened. Putting words in a witness’ mouth is a practice that is frowned upon.
The final type of objection is the general objection. This type of objection offers less protection to the lawyer’s client than the other types but is still useful. It can stall the trial long enough for the lawyer to figure out exactly to what he or she wants to object and formulate an argument in his or her head.