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DECISIONS n CIVIL PRACTICE trial judges cannot avoid making rulings on evidentiary objections by having the opposing lawyers confer in front of the jury for the purpose of reaching a compromise, the Delaware Supreme Court said on April 2. Alexander v. Cahill, No. 630, 2001. In a lawsuit arising out of an accident involving multiple cars and a school bus, a New Castle County judge had the parties move to a corner of the courtroom to resolve objections. The Delaware Supreme Court said that attorneys should not be intimidated into compromising evidentiary objections for the purpose of relieving a trial judge of the danger of ruling erroneously. “Whatever the motive,” the court wrote, “the courtroom procedure used here does not advance the goal of ensuring a fair trial and we firmly disavow the practice.” The court also ruled that the trial court erred in allowing a police officer to give his lay opinion about the cause of the accident; that it was proper for the judge to instruct the jury that some of the defendants had settled with the plaintiffs, but improper to allow testimony designed to persuade the jury that the defendants had admitted liability; and that the judge should not have allowed evidence of the “choice of evils” defense without prior notice.

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