This Week One course will introduce students to a critical dimension of lawyering: the law, practice, and ethics of questioning witnesses effectively in non-adversarial and adversarial situations. Through lectures, simulation exercises (i.e., mock depositions, grand jury proceedings, and trials), and oral and written feedback, students gain exposure to the forensic techniques needed to effectively question witnesses in both informal and formal settings, a skill set whose value in the practice of law is not limited to litigation. This course is an excellent introduction to the type of materials covered in upperlevel elective courses such as Trial Practice and Civil Litigation Practice.
The course does not require students to have taken Evidence, but will introduce students to selected key evidentiary issues that they need to understand in order to construct lines of questions and individual questions to elicit responsive answers (or to object successfully to opposing counsel’s questions). For class each evening, students will have limited assigned readings before class (which may include fact patterns and mock documents for the next day’s exercises), and handle questioning in mini-problems involving witness questioning in both civil and criminal practice. The scenarios are expected to include situations such as: (1) informal interviews of corporate employees and other individuals by outside counsel conducting internal investigations of alleged wrongdoing, such as consumer fraud, economic sanctions violations, foreign bribery, organized crime, and SEC disclosure violations; (2) informal and formal interviews of government employees, government-contractor officers and employees, and other individuals by counsel for a Congressional committee investigating alleged fraud against the government; (3) formal non-adversarial questioning of witnesses in civil and criminal depositions, and in federal grand jury proceedings; and (4) formal adversarial questioning of witnesses in civil and criminal trials. Students can expect to be conducting witness questioning each evening of class and to enhance their and their classmates’ learning through a highly participatory and supportive environment.
Learning Objectives for Professor Rusch:
The general objective of the examination exercises in this course is skills exposure, practice, and improvement to ensure that students become familiar with the forensic techniques needed to question witnesses effectively in a variety of contents. Whether or not students eventually take upper-level courses such as Trial Practice or Trial Advocacy, which address a broader array of litigation skills in a full-semester course, this course will provide them with a valuable lawyering skill set whose value in the practice of law is not limited to litigation. That skill set is best developed in a concentrated course like this by keeping in-class mini-lectures brief, overseeing multiple exercises by students, and providing prompt in-class feedback after each exercise is completed.
Learning Objectives for Professors Williams and Brightbill:
Students will develop a stronger understanding through experiential learning of the role of questions in litigation, with specific focus on witness interviews, depositions, direct examinations, and cross examinations.