I have always been a giving person. I give and I give and I give and I…you get the idea. Of course, what I give is limited by what I have. That’s why I’ve never donated my eggs. However, one thing I do have is vast knowledge, and I’ve never been reluctant to share it. For example, as a kid, when I set some other kid’s pants on fire, I was more than happy to say, “Hey, your pants are on fire.”

As an adult, this has translated into me conducting numerous seminars on topics of interest. As a lawyer, I started out doing legal seminars about the areas I knew best. I did one called “Facing Disbarment with Dignity.” Another popular one was “‘Oops, I lost your file:’ Thoughts on Trial Preparation.” I got the idea for my most popular seminar when I went to a seminar myself entitled “Allegations of Impotence in Annulment Cases.” I just expanded the topic in my seminar to “Allegations of Impotence in Commercial Transaction Cases.”

Eventually, my seminars became so popular, that I branched out into areas other than law, although admittedly sometimes I didn’t actually know much about the topic. I conducted a very successful accounting seminar entitled “‘Me no habla englais’ and Other Things to Say in an Audit.” However, both my math seminar (“How High Can you Count?”) and my physics seminar (“Lordy, dem planets is big!!”) were less well received.

All this is to say that I feel compelled to offer you, right here and now, my “on-line” seminar on “How to be a Good Witness.” I’ve recently had an unusually high number of trials, and before each one, I instruct each witness on the basic rules of witnesshood. But no one seems to listen. Below, are the rules to follow if you ever take the stand to testify, say in a traffic case, or maybe psychic malpractice litigation. Under each rule are shockingly accurate variations on ways my witnesses have violated these rules.

HOW TO BE A GOOD WITNESS

Rule # 1: Be specific in your answers. Frequently witnesses feel they should
“explain” their answer. This is a disaster. For example, in a criminal trial, do not do this:

Me
Sir, are you involved in any money
laundering?

Defendant
No.

Me
Thank you.

Defendant
I mean, sure I bounce a few checks now
and then.

Me
Uh…that will be all your hon…

Defendant
…and sometimes, I may stick my hand
into the mailbox and grab a little mail.

Me
I believe you’ve answered the question. That
will be all I…

Defendant
…once I stole a sweater, but that was years
ago. And once I stole a cop car. That was this
morning.

Me
…your honor, we would rest, and offer no further…

Defendant
…I like to set fires. Big ones, mostly in strip
malls. And I’ve certainly unzipped my share of
flies at my share of Junior High Schools. Oh,
and I shot a couple guys. But money laundering,
NEVER!!

Rule # 2: Keep your answers as short as possible. Not every question is an invitation to tell your life story. Here is an example of what I mean from a recent Zoning hearing.

Me
Please tell the judge your address.

Witness
I live on Birdsong Lane. Just by the river.
I used to live in Flatbush, but who the hell
wants to spend their life in a place named
Flatbush? Plus, it was like…a total dump.
I had a neighbor there, Rita, who used to raise
chickens. All day long, Cluck Cluck Cluck, do
you know how stressful that is? I was so stressed
that my infections flared up all the time. Did I
mention I had chronic yeast infections? So anyway,
my boyfriend at the time, Leo, was just getting
over his prostate troubles, and he never wanted
to…

Judge
Shut up.

Witness
…go out. So he’d stay in all day and watch
for girl scouts walking by on the street. And
when he’d see one, he’d take out his…

Judge
…I want to kill you.

Rule # 3: Don’t Guess! “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer. Don’t do this:

Me
So Mr. Marshmallow, you are charged with
burglary. Did you break into Mr. Barker’s house?

Mr. Marshmallow
No.

Me
So you have no idea who stole Mr. Barker’s
golf clubs.

Mr. Marshmallow
Well, I suppose it’s someone who likes Golf.
Boy I love Golf. And I guess the guy would have
to be about my height to fit into the window. He’d
likely be someone who didn’t work on Tuesdays,
like me. And finally, his name would probably be
Marshmallow.

Me
And why is that?

Mr. Marshmallow
I don’t know, just seems logical.

Rule # 4: Don’t get mad. Opposing counsel is just doing his job. He would be representing you now if you paid him first. So don’t do this:

Me
Why don’t you tell the jury your name sir?

Defendant
Why don’t you just kiss my Lithuanian
butt you yellow-bellied, underdressed hack?

Judge
Sir, Mr. Leach is your lawyer.

Defendant
Oh, I know.

I hope this has been helpful to you, whether you face impeachment proceedings or a simple, run-of-the-mill, routine demand for a paternity test from the baby-sitter. Please join me tomorrow for my next seminar “How Even Total Losers can have High Self-Esteem.”

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