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Anatomy of a Civil Trial


Maryland Case Law on Opening Statement


It is also important to remember that while there are few


constraints on opening statements, Maryland case law does set forth some guidelines. Te first and most frequently violated is substituting opening argument for opening statement. Hartman v. Meadows, 243 Md. 158, 220 A.2d 555 (1966) requests counsel to consider opening statement’s purpose is to acquaint the judge and jury with the facts counsel hopes and expects to prove, leaving the arguments until their proper time. In the continuing theme of taking great care of what you state in opening statement, counsel may make concessions and stipulations which are binding on his client. Few attorneys would care to see their case subject to a directed verdict after opening statement. Goff v. Richards, 19 Md. App. 250, 310 A.2d 203 (1973). It is improvident to accuse the opposing counsel of committing a crime in opening statement. Timatariga v. Chambers, 46 Md. App. 260, 416 A.2d 1326 (1980). Finally, language used in opening statement using vulgarity or improperly disparaging a party may not simply lead to mistrial but give rise to a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Attorney Grievance Commission v. Allison, 349 Md. 623, 709 A.2d 1212 (1996).


Te opening statement is the most important point of


the case. Counsel has the undivided attention of the jury waiting for directions. With a well-crafted theme of the case counsel can establish the framework all later evidence will be considered by. Developing the story of the case with a coherent theme gives the jury a map to find their way to accepting the theme and making it their own by reaching a verdict in favor of the client. 


Biography Jeanne M. Ripley received her JD from the University


of Baltimore School of Law and was admitted to practice in 1983 in both Maryland, Federal and applicable appellate courts. A long time member of the Harford County Bar, she began her career as an Assistant State’s Attorney for Harford County with a private practice which included and continues to include the representation of realtors and brokers, title companies, mortgage brokers and associated civil litigation. In addition to her membership in the MAJ, she is a member of the Criminal Justice Act Misdemeanor Panel, the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney Association and the Maryland State Bar Association.


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