This week’s question:
I may need to take a friend to court over an unpaid loan that we made some time ago. However, I am afraid that she may tell the judge about some unflattering things I said to her in private about someone else. How can I be protected here and still get my money?
You emailed in a very interesting question, Julie. Although every case is different, some general principles apply to all cases that end up in court.
Chances are pretty good that your case will settle before it ends up in a trial in the courtroom, but if it does not settle, then the basic rules of evidence will come into play.
All litigants in a court case will need to follow the rules and procedures governing the presentation of evidence. If we did not have these rules, there would be pure chaos. Most of the rules make a lot of sense and are fair to both sides.
If a question is asked or if a document comes up that does not really pertain to the dispute, it may well be irrelevant. And, of course, only relevant evidence is admissible in court.
So many things may have come up previously, but it must have something to do with an issue in the case. If it is not relevant, it subject to a trial objection. If an objection is made, the trial judge will need to rule on the objection. That is part of his or her job.
There are many, many trial objections that may apply, far too many to even list in this brief column. Each one has a definite reason for its existence and each one has the proper authority for its application.
Your attorney (and, yes, you should have an attorney) will have sufficient knowledge and experience as to what the trial objections are and how they may or may not apply in your particular situation.
For example, if your friend starts to say something to the judge in court about a private statement you made to her about a friend, it may well be kept out of court because it is not relevant to the money you loaned to your friend.
In California, trial objections are set forth in the California Evidence Code and in certain cases that have been decided by the Court of Appeal or California Supreme Court.
If you wish, you can see a listing of California trial objections by going online and bring up your favorite search engine. I tried it with Google and entered California trial objections in the search box.
One option on the first search page was a Checklist of Objections published by Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB) that lists all of those objections. Very interesting to say the least.
One can see that we definitely do have rules of evidence that apply to every case and that in each case, the parties must follow the rules.
It is also important to note that your objection must be made timely, i.e., right away. If not, it could well be deemed waived.
Finally, let me issue a hearty welcome to our new Evergreen Times readers.
For many years now, about 27 to be exact, it has been my pleasure to write a legal column like this one for the Almaden Times. It is and has been called “Ask the Lawyer”.
The purpose of this column is to respond to various questions that our readers send in to us. As can be seen in the closing message below, readers can send in their questions by email, fax, or print mail.
And as a reminder to our Almaden Valley readers as well, your name will not be used for obvious reasons. Most people want their legal issues to remain private and we respect that 100%. Only assumed names will be used.
I have been practicing law in Santa Clara County for the past 43 years and still enjoy the work immensely. Readers’ questions usually deal with a variety of topics and are often of general interest to our audience.
As stated in the picture area above, past articles can be viewed in our web site www.almadenvalleylawers.com. Chances are good that you will find one or more of interest to you.
Donald J. DeVries