Objections are the trial lawyer’s tool for preventing the admission of unfair evidence for the jury’s consideration. Some of the most frequently made objections are that the question is leading, irrelevant, beyond the scope, argumentative, assumes a fact not in evidence, or has been asked and answered.
A leading question is one that improperly leads the witness to the answer sought by the lawyer. For example, “You were driving under the speed limit, weren’t you?” is clearly leading. The appropriate wording for such a question is, “How fast were you driving?”
Leading questions are permissible when asked of the witness on the other side. Thus, a plaintiff’s lawyer can ask the defendant on cross-examination in a car accident case, “You were driving faster than the speed limit, were you not?” Similarly, the insurance company’s lawyer is permitted to ask that question of the plaintiff.
If a witness your lawyer presents testifies contrary to your interests, your lawyer can ask the judge to declare him or her a hostile witness. If the judge grants this request, your lawyer can use leading questions. This allows tougher questioning and permits greater control over the witness.
Judges have great discretion in ruling on the leading question objection. Many leading questions are asked simply to save time concerning matters that are either relatively unimportant or not in serious dispute. Thus, “Was it sunny on the day of the accident?” is a question that might be permitted by the judge, even though it is leading. In fact, the opposing attorney probably would not object to this question. Attorneys do not assert objections unless they feel there is a good reason to do so. Objections that serve no real purpose, even if they are technically proper, can aggravate the judge and jury, perhaps even creating the impression that the lawyer is trying to hide the truth.