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Your Out-of-State Case is Going to Trial: Now What?

Updated February 26, 2024 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

By Kent Winingham

Our firm has recently either tried, or prepared to try, multiple cases out of the state of Indiana. In the process of doing so, we continue to face some of the same situations that are somewhat unique to trying a case out of one’s home state. Given the recency of some of these experiences, we thought it might be of benefit to your practice to hear what we have found to be most helpful in preparing for, or trying, cases out of state.  We hope you can use some of these nuggets in preparation for your out-of-state trials.

1. Get good local counsel!

The importance of getting knowledgeable, helpful local counsel is something that may often be overlooked. However, it is critical to have good local counsel, and you will thank yourself when it comes time to try your case. Whether it be possessing knowledge of local court rules, local jurisdictional demographics, the judges, or defense counsel, your local counsel’s input may be the difference in setting your case on the most productive path to success. Good local counsel also helps you better understand how you should value your case given the venue. And, when it comes time to try your case, having your local counsel’s input during jury selection can be priceless. Do not underestimate the benefit that good local counsel can provide to you, and more importantly your clients.

2. Help yourself ahead of time

Given the number of inevitable moving parts that come with the day or days before trying a case—and the days of trying the case—do yourself a favor and plan some of the little things ahead of time. Stay close to the court house to make the commute as easy as possible. Identify a place or two where you know you could get a quick bite to eat as needed during trial or at night.  Send your file and demonstrative exhibits to your local counsel’s office so you have a back-up accessible file and do not have to travel with your demonstrative exhibits. You will sleep better knowing your file and demonstratives are safe and sound near the court house. And, perhaps most importantly, create and send your juror notebooks containing exhibits to your local counsel’s office earlier than later. You will be glad you have done so, and you will be glad you are not traveling with the notebooks or printing exhibits on the eve of trial.

3. See the court room and test the technology

Although so many hearings are now done by telephone and Zoom, to the extent you have the opportunity to have any in-person hearing at all during the course of the case, take it! And while you are there, work with the judge’s clerk to get an understanding as to what the technology capabilities the court room has. Then, test it!  You may not have your trial exhibits, and you don’t have to. Test anything: test showing a power point, a video, an audio clip, or the like.  Just use the technology so that you gain some familiar with the setup and are not stuck trying to figure it out before your opening statement.

While these may not be groundbreaking tips, I hope that they at least serve as a reminder of some of the little, simple things we can all do to help ourselves when working up out-of-state cases.  It is too easy to forget some of the more basic things when we are focused so inwardly on the case itself and substance of the case.  Don’t lose sight of the little stuff….you’ll thank yourself later.

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