Thursday, January 10, 2008


Tonight, I participated in a meeting of the Sherman Minton chapter of the American Inns of Court. The Inns of Court is an organization in which lawyers and judges have monthly meetings to socialize and share legal education programs for the betterment of the local legal community. Participation is voluntary. All of the local judges are members, though, and so most of of the leading lawyers in Floyd and Clark counties are members as well.

Each month, a different team of members is responsible for presenting a continuing legal education program. It was my team's turn to present the program this evening. My team is comprised primarily of litigators, and so it was our assignment to present a program relating to the requirements for introducing evidence at trial.

I think that the presentation went very well. My particular topic was "Impeachment by evidence of prior bad acts." I researched and wrote a paper on the subject, and then gave a talk about it during our meeting. Some debate was called for, and I was enthused that Judge J. Terrence Cody, Judge Dan Donahue, Judge Jerry Jacobi and trial lawyer extraordinaire Jim Bourne all participated in some spirited discussion on my topic. It was fun.

My group was led by Dick Mullineaux, a good friend and a very well-respected veteran of many jury trials. Dick did a great job of getting our group of attorneys organized to present a cohesive and beneficial program. Dick and I were both very close to Sam Day, who passed away almost five years ago now, and we share a special bond because of the bereft feeling that we share at his loss. Indeed, Sam and I presented several Inns of Court programs together. I suppose that I will never attend a meeting there without having his memory evoked.

I think that Sam would have enjoyed tonight's program. I wish that he could have been there.


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12:15 AM  
Blogger white rabbit said...

Hi Matthew, me again...

This time I am intrigued by the expression "Impeachment by evidence of prior bad acts." I'm wondering if you mean what I think you mean. The legal language is very different. The reason I ask is that I gave a seminar on bad character last October. This related purely to criminal proceedings (are we in the same are?). the law used to be straightforward: bad character essentially went in as (a) similar fact and (b) attack on prosecution witnesses' character - subject to judicial discretion. Not content with leaving well alone, the Government passed a Criminal Justice Act in 2003 that greatly extended (and complicated) bad cahracter issues. My seminar was about the relevant provisions of the Act and they way the courts had interpreted them.

We have to do continuing professional development - it is a disciplinary offence not to - and as a bitter and twisted crew ;-) the criminal bar in aprticular deeply resents this!

11:05 AM  
Blogger Meatbe said...

Hello again, Andrew.

It appears that there must indeed be some differences in the terminology and evidentiary rules employed by our two systems. When I use the term "impeachment," I am referring to the ability to attack the credibility of a party or witness. My practice involves civil litigation, and so I am most familiar with the application of the rules in that setting.

In our system, each jurisdiction has its own rules of evidence. Those rules, in general, govern both civil and criminal trials. My recent talk before the Inns of Court related to the Indiana Rules of Evidence pertaining to the admission of character evidence--i.e., evidence of other crimes or prior bad acts, in both civil and criminal matters.

The Indiana Rules of Evidence provide (in Rule 404) that evidence of a person's character, including evidence of other crimes, wrongs or acts, is generally not admissible to prove conduct in conformity with the perceived character flaw. There are exceptions, however, and one of the most notable is that evidence of the character of a WITNESS is fair game, and may be admitted.

I.R.E. 607 provides that the credibility of a witness may be attacked ("impeached") by any party. Pursuant to I.R.E 609(a), evidence that a witness has been convicted of a crime (or an attempted crime) shall be admitted, but only if the crime or attempted crime is murder, treason, rape, robbery, kidnapping, burglary, arson, criminal confinement, perjury or another crime involving dishonesty or false statement.

5:42 PM  
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