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Richard Cook

BY: RICHARD A. COOK, Esq.  (Guest Blogger)

Need a system to keep all your witnesses and exhibits organized? Well sometimes the best system is the simplest one.

I use a separate folder for each witness and each exhibit. I make sure all the folder tabs line up in a single row for the witnesses and label each witness folder with their last name, first name or if it’s a record keeper — I use the name of the organization. By using a single row of tabs you can quickly thumb through the files without having to scan side to side. I then alphabetized the folders from A to Z.

In each witness folder, I keep a copy of the witness’s outline and a copy of any exhibits needed for the witness. This way, if I need to run out and meet with a witness, I just pull their folder and run. Because of my preparation, I know I have everything in hand I need to deal with that witness.

Each exhibit is also kept in a separate tabbed folder or tabbed binder and is sequentially pre-numbered or pre-marked with a letter. The folders or tabs are then sequentially ordered, just as was done with the witnesses.

I also prepare two lists, one for witnesses and one for exhibits. Witnesses are listed alphabetically with the number or letter for each exhibit  to be shown to that witness listed in the adjacent column.

I create a second list with exhibits sequentially listed and all witnesses crossed reference for each exhibit. On this list, I also have columns to note if an exhibit was tender into evidence and whether it was admitted or excluded. This way you or your assistant can know exactly which exhibits need to be pulled, shown to and covered with each particular witness. You also can track if you need to make an offer of proof for exhibits excluded.

I outline each element of proof for my claim(s) and list the witness and exhibit which supports each separate element of the claim(s). This way you can easily respond to a motion for a directed verdict by outlining the proof which was entered through the testimony of specific witnesses and the exhibits on your shorthand list of proof.

I have  successfully use this system for trials involving dozens of witnesses and hundreds of exhibits. It is simple and it works. It also keeps your table organized and uncluttered which conveys to the jury you know what you are doing.

Richard Cook graduated from Purdue University in the Economics Honor Program in 1979 and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1982. Following law school, he served as a federal law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division.  In 1984, Richard began working as Deputy Prosecutor for the Lake County Indiana Prosecutor’s Office and from there, served as Assistant U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. There he handled a number of complex criminal matters and  jury trials.  While there, Richard received the Chief Postal Inspector’s Special Award and a letter of commendation from the U.S. Attorney General for his work prosecuting a major money order fraud scheme being perpetrated out of the Indiana State Prison system.  Since leaving the U.S. Attorney’s office in 1989, Richard has focused primarily on civil work and is currently a member of the firm Yosha Cook Shartzer & Tisch in Indianapolis.  Richard is also a member of the ITLA and the ABA.

Richard also hosts a legal blog: http://the-barristers-toolbox.com/  Check it out!