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What to Do When the Judge Says 'You Can't Do That!'

By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 06, 2018 3:58 PM

Some lawyers just don't get it. When a judge says "no," it's not an invitation to argue.

It's more like an invitation to sit down and shut up. What part of "no," do they not understand?

A good advocate knows this: When a judge says, "you can't do that," you have to find another way to do it. That's what's happening in special prosecutor Robert Mueller's case against attorney Paul Manafort.

"Enough Is Enough"

Manafort, known mostly as Donald Trump's former campaign manager, had a couple of small victories at the start of trial. In one ruling, Judge T.S. Ellis said the government could not show the jury photographs illustrating the defendant's spending habits.

Ellis said such images -- such as the $1,000 tie or $15,000 ostrich feather jacket -- might "besmirch the defendant." That was a gift -- from the judge -- for Manafort, who has been wearing orange jumpsuits lately.

"Enough is enough," the judge said. "We don't convict people because they have a lot of money and throw it around."

So instead of using pictures, the prosecutors used volumes of invoices showing millions of dollars spent on designer suits, jackets, and jewelry. Even though a picture may be worth a thousand words, jurors can still count.

"Can't Prove Conspiracy"

Of course, trial attorneys like to put on a show if it will help sway a jury. And every trial needs a "star" witness.

But in Manafort's case, the judge sobered up the prosecutors about their main man. When it sounded like former business partner Rick Gates might not be called to testify, the judge warned prosecutors you "can't prove conspiracy without him."

"Not necessarily," Greg Andres said before getting the hint. He then said the prosecution had "every intention" of calling Gates to the stand.

"Yes, your honor," might have worked, too.

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