Trial Tips and Strategies

Redact Trial Exhibits on your Computer

Getting Ready for Trial

I've been getting a case ready for trial, and I tried something new that I thought was quite helpful and I wanted to share. I always dread (and my staff dreads) the redacting of the medical records and police report for trial exhibits (and demand packages).

Why We Redact

Because of the collateral source rule, I always "white out" all insurance information on bills, auto insurance information on police reports, and other matters that I know will be objectionable or prohibited at trial. (For the non-lawyer, you may not know, but we are not allowed to tell the jury, or even suggest  to the jury that the negligent person getting sued actually has automobile insurance, or, that it is the auto insurance company that will pay for the damages, or, that it is the insurance company that is refusing to make a fair settlement.  Yes, we know that's unfair, but those are the rules.)

The Messy Options of Redaction

Over the years I've used liquid "white out", tape strip white out, roll on white out, and just about ever product they have released. That resulted in an often messy exhibit, requiring "whiting out" recopying, whiting out and recopying. No fun.

Scanners Work Better than White Out

Despite the fact that I have been using a scanner in my practice for a while, I kept using the "old school" whiteout method out of habit. No more. This time I simply went straight to all my scanned documents.

A Few Simple Steps

  • I saved the medical bills and the police report under new file names, such as "medical records redacted.doc" and "police report redacted.doc ".
  • I then used PaperPort to access the .pdf file and I then used the "eraser" function to simply "erase" the information that I normally "whited out".
  • When I was done, I printed the pages out and they were ready to go to Kinko's for enlargement.

You could use any program that allows you to add text or images to a .pdf file.  You could probably even "paste" a .pdf image into a Word document and use the "picture editor" to erase info, though the tools in PaperPort are much easier.

The Advantages Over Old School Methods
The "eraser" function was so much more precise and easier than the old method, plus, it doesn't leave "white out shadows" or smudges, and it erases the problem the first time, every time.  Also, it makes it easy to make multiple copies with different redacting marks, such as for a police report where you are not sure how much information a judge will let in at trial, so you have to have "choices" on the exhibit.
I'm not sure why this didn't occur to me earlier, but I suppose that old habits die hard sometimes. 
Chris Nichols 1.800.906.5984

Request for Admissions about Depo testimony

     Some lawyers will send detailed Requests for Admissions to an opposing party after their deposition asking that statements from the depsoition be admitted or denied.  While this may seem redundant in some ways, I think it is a great technique to "cement" testimony that will be used in trial.  For example, the RFA may read:  "Admit or deny that you were 'looking to the left when [you] entered the intersection of Jones and Martin street.  (Defenedants deposition, June 6, 2006, page 22, line 12-13)".

     I think this is a great technique, and here is why:

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Can Trial Judges overrule each other?

Quick Answer:  No, one trial judge can not overrule another trial judge in NC.

Generally, one superior court judge cannot overrule another. Bailey v. Gooding, 60 N.C. App. 459, 461 (1983) (citing In re Burton, 257 N.C. 534, 126 S.E. 2d 581 (1962)).

The well established rule in North Carolina is that no appeal lies from one Superior Court judge to another; that one Superior Court judge may not correct another's errors of law; and that ordinarily one judge may not modify, overrule, or change the judgment of another Superior Court judge previously made in the same action.  Calloway v. Ford Motor Co., 281 N.C. 496, 501 (N.C. 1972) (citations omitted). 1.800.906.5984

On losing a trial.....

Dear Lawyer:
     We all know that you worked really hard on this case.  You stayed up late, you lost weekends, you "researched" your issues, your prepared your arguments and theories.  But you lost.
Trying to figure out why a jury "went wrong" is about the same as figuring out who shot Kennedy.  Everyone has a strong opinion, no one really knows, there are obvious answers and also viable theories.  In the end, what's done is done, there are some things we may never know.  You may never "know" why you lost, but I think that some things are always true in every win, or loss.

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