A THOUSAND WORDS’ WORTH

November 29, 2010 § 1 Comment

Rule 1006 of the Mississippi Rules of Evidence allows you to offer charts, summaries or calculations where the evidence is so voluminous that it would be inconvenient to develop it in the course of testimony.  The procedure is simple:  The originals are produced at a reasonable time and place for inspection and copying, and the court may order that they be produced in court, although introduction of the originals is not required, according to the official comment to the rule.

The advantages of this rule can be pretty significant.  It can improve your effectiveness in presenting complex proof, and give you an edge over an opponent who is too lazy to avail himself of it.

Here are a few examples:

  • There is a claim of wasteful dissipation of assets based on abuse of a credit card over a three-year period.  There are literally hundreds of transactions.  Instead of dumping the statements into evidence, prepare a chart showing yearly and monthly totals.  Another chart could highlight spending trends, such as dates and amounts of casino cash advances, jewelry purchases and so on.  Witnesses can then be questioned about particular aspects of the matter without laborious testimony to establish the underlying transactions.
  • Six years of tax returns are relevant.  Chart the income and taxes paid, or the depreciation and deductions claimed, rather than tediously poring over them.
  • The other party has fluctuating income.  Use charts and graphs to illustrate.

A variation on this theme is to present your client’s position in a concise written form, as, for instance, where your client is requesting particular provisions for visitation.  Have the proposed visitation arrangement reduced to writing and have your client testify about the key articles.  Introduce the proposed arrangements through your client.

As always, put yourself in the judge’s shoes.  If all you do is put 76 credit card statements in evidence with some testimony of a witness or two, are you sure that the judge will draw all the conclusions that you want her to?  If all you do is put tax returns into evidence with some testimony, will the judge in his deliberations focus in on exactly what you need to win?  Which evidence is more likely to get a detailed, thorough going over:  raw documents with some notes taken by the judge; or a chart that focuses the judge’s attention like a laser on the details you need?

Rule 1006 is a super tool.  It lets you reduce literally thousands of words (and, consequently judge’s notes) into a picture.  And we all know how many words a picture is worth.

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