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National Litigation League: New Trial Rules

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One of my friends is trying a case and I am attempting to find time to come out and show support. When I was told when and where things were going to kick off (as well as being admonished to not make any contact with the trial team), I immediately texted back asking if it would be ok to show up with signs of support in hand (D-Fence, John 3:16), or with my face painted and wearing a jersey emblazoned with their client’s name on it. I was told that I would have been shot by the courtroom deputy had I tried a stunt like that.

I may have also toyed with showing up with a beer-stocked cooler ready to heckle the opposing counsel when they started to do anything positive. This plan of action was also decided against, though I may still do a bit of trialgating on the courthouse steps.

This got me to thinking of how we could improve the entertainment level for members of the jury (and public as a whole) if we were to infuse a few football rules into the trial process. I’m not talking shoulder pads, helmets and field turf in the courtroom, but potentially we could have the Judge done a striped shirt (see trial lawyer, named partner of a decently sized Arizona firm and veteran NFL referee Ed Hochuli for reference). In addition, the courtroom clerk could act as the one who holds a modified down sign but instead of a big orange number displaying 3rd down, it would proclaim "D" for direct examination, "X" for cross, and "RD" and "RX" for redirect and recross, should the case be so contentious as to get into a 4 down situation.

Further joining the gridiron and the trial, we could replace the time-honored tradition of the Plaintiff presenting the case first by having a coin toss administered in the center of the courtroom as soon as jury selection is completed. The differing natures of the Plaintiff and Defendant's opening statements necessitate the Plaintiff going first, so maybe a double headed coin would have to be used. But the jury wouldn't know, it'd still be exciting for them.

We don’t have to stop with just the Judge and the Clerk, it would be glorious to walk into the courtroom just as opening statements are about to begin and instead of a traditional court reporter sitting just off the well of the courtroom, there is an individual holding one of those big parabolic microphones that we see on the sidelines each and every Sunday. Though, this may pose a problem for when there are sidebars as the courtroom’s stadium quality sound system would broadcast every 'um,' 'uh,' 'You’ve got to be effing kidding me!!! That was clearly out of bounds your honor!' and 'Kill! Kill! Kill!'

I think that one final area of trial that could use the infusion of pigskin (not to be confused with a hot beef injection) would be the way that the Court would respond to objections. Much like the NFL, I could envision the judge taking a more active role in objections, throwing a yellow flag and imposing the same penalty as a false start: five yards and repeat the question. When there is an objection based on misstating evidence, the judge would get off the bench, stroll to the corner of the courtroom and promptly 'go under the hood' to see the replay in as many angles as possible. While we are at it, we could rename "contempt" with the football inspired "unlawyerly conduct," and "leading the witness" becomes "offensive question interference."

Excessive celebration is allowed, but only at the conclusion of a trial (no celebrating a great witness impeachment).

Sparring attorneys would have challenge flags for when they think the court has overlooked an error or made a bad call. Like the NFL, you get two per court session (resetting after a recess), and a third if you win the first two. Lose a challenge but still think you were right? Throw your second challenge flag and inform the judge that you "strenuously object."

Not only would this enliven the courtroom experience for those who have to be there, but it would provide the average American with a renewed interest in the justice system. A new wave of civic minded super citizens would emerge, the country would pull itself out of its partisan slump, and the Golden Age of American Jurisprudence would be born. Or, failing that, those of us stuck in the courtroom all day would at least have a chance to chat with Erin Andrews after the verdict comes down.

[Read more from The Namby Pamby]

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