Smirking in the Courtroom: Lessons for Civil Litigation

Smirking in the Courtroom: Lessons for Civil Litigation

The recent mistrial in the Mendieta murder trial in Toronto has some lessons for people involved in civil litigation as well. In the Mendieta case, a mistrial was declared because a Crown lawyer who had handled the previous murder trial, where a verdict could not be reached, was present in the courtroom during the cross-examination of Ms. Mendieta, all the while allegedly making faces – smirking – that the jury, not to mention the witness, found distracting.

There is no doubt that such conduct cannot be tolerated and the resulting mistrial is at great expense to the taxpayers and also the parties involved in the matter. It will likely put the outcome of the case very much in doubt, one way or the other.

Smirking In The Courtroom

In Civil lawsuits, such as disability litigation or personal injury matters, a party smirking in the courtroom at the jury or the witnesses could just as easily result in a mistrial. The lesson of this story goes beyond cases that proceed to trial. It underscores that parties engaged in any type of litigious matter must show respect for the process and the participants in the matter. Poor or disrespectful behavior is unlikely to result in a favourable settlement or negotiation at mediation, and poor behavior during examinations for discovery by witnesses or counsel gives the process a bad name.

Respectful disagreement and submissions are an obvious part of passionate advocacy, but the system only works if all parties are given a voice. As lawyers who represent plaintiffs in their insurance disputes, we take this obligation seriously. Providing passionate, respectful representation so that our clients are given a voice that follows these principals.

By David Share L.L.B.

President, Share Lawyers

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