Cross-Examination : Arbitration Boot Camp

There are two reasons to do cross examination.

  • One I call constructive.

  • The other I call destructive.

Constructive cross-examination — sometimes called hitchhiking — is where you're basically going to use the other side's witness as if they were your witness. That witness has things you need to know (or the arbitrator needs to know) and you simply ask a series of questions to get that information from the witness.

The other one is called destructive cross-examination — it's sometimes called impeachment — where you're trying to discredit the witness. Maybe you can show that witness is a liar. That's difficult and infrequent. But you can show sometimes the witness has a poor memory by asking a series of questions and see if they remember, or you can show bias by showing they’re related to somebody or they socialize with somebody. You don't come right out and say “Oh, well, you must be biased.” No, you just let the arbitrator form the arbitrator's own conclusions on that.

If you're going to use constructive cross-examination, you're probably not going to want to then turn around and try to impeach that witness because you want the arbitrator to believe the constructive part of that testimony that you've got.

Let me give you six ideas.

Number one: Don't repeat the unfavorable information that the witness has already given. You’re just repeating stuff that you don't want to hear and you don't want the arbitrator to hear again.

Number two: Use short questions and use plain words. Don't go into great big long complicated stuff.

Number three: I want you to use leading questions. People say don't use leading questions. But this is cross-examination, and you you can — and Irving Younger the great expert says you must — always use leading questions that would elicit either a yes or no answer.

Q: ”You came to work at eight o'clock that morning?”
A: ”Yes.”
Q: ”The supervisor was already at her desk?”
A: ”Yes.”
And so on. Very simple questions.

Number four: You should usually know what the answer is going to be before you ask the question. Otherwise, you might get surprised — unfavorably.

Number five: I want you to listen to the answer. I see it happen all the time where an advocate has a series of questions they want to ask and they go bulling through that series of questions, but they miss one of the answers that would have led them down a different rabbit hole that could have been quite favorable.

Number six: Do not quarrel with a witness. Do not argue with the witness. It only makes you look bad. And it usually doesn't help your case at all. Save your argument for when the case is over and you get to make an argument to the arbitrator.

So, before the hearing starts, when you're thinking about your cross-examination, know why it is you're going to cross-examine — constructive / destructive — and then prepare a list of questions that will lead you down the proper path to the answers that you want to hear or that you want the arbitrator to hear.