Motion to Admit Exhibit #1 Granted: NAGTRI's Evidentiary Foundations Manual

All of us need a little help sometime, not only when learning something new, but also when we are experienced and facing a tough adversary. This can be especially true in the fast-paced arena of advocating the admission of evidence at trial. Regardless of the level of experience, it is important that both attorneys and witnesses be thoroughly and adequately prepared. An important part of that preparation includes knowledge of what questions to ask of each witness together with an understanding of why such questions are important.

In an effort to provide attorney general staff and other government lawyers with practical tools they can use in their everyday practice, the National Attorneys General Training and Research Institute (NAGTRI) recently released its Evidentiary Foundations for Government Attorneys manual. This manual was developed with the assistance of a panel of experienced litigators who shared their expertise and knowledge. The effort was spearheaded by Mark Neil and Francesca Liquori, two of NAGTRI’s program counsel and both experienced trial attorneys. Published late last year, it is the newest publication of its kind and the first in almost 20 years.

Written by trial lawyers for trial lawyers, this manual will equip litigators with a better understanding of the process of laying a proper and sufficient evidentiary foundation, an essential skill in the courtroom. The manual serves as a guide to laying the proper foundation for admissibility of a wide variety of forms of evidence and types of testimony. Its goal is to provide the attorney and witness with a better understanding of the process of admitting various types of evidence. The materials are not intended to be used as a script but rather, serve as a guide of how an attorney might craft his or her own examinations of a witness. The manual goes beyond simple predicate questions by also providing an explanation of the legal concepts relating to each sample direct examination.

The foundations are divided into topical sections for ease of reference and are meant to be adapted to address variances that might be encountered. The major sections cover general evidence forms; business records; maps, diagrams and models; email; social media; identification; audio and video; electronic surveillance; expert and opinion witnesses; medical; insanity and mental health; traffic; and testimonial issues. Each evidentiary foundation, when appropriate, contains a reference to the Federal Rules of Evidence and relevant case law or other reference, a brief explanation and outline of areas for inquiry, and an example of a direct examination. Some examples incorporate specific situations to better illustrate how the examination might be conducted.

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