By Mike McCurley and Elizabeth Durso Branch (Texas)
Scope of the article
Success in trial is based upon the story and the storyteller. Only Texas, New York and Georgia still permit the parties’ story to be told to a jury in a suit for divorce. Texas, alone, permits a jury to determine the custody of a child. Over the course of the decades of one’s career, it is likely that a family law attorney will prepare for a jury trial, although the number of jury trials statewide is on the decline. This paper examines the scope of the jury trial process: developing the theme of the case; voir dire; the opening statement; the order of proof; witness preparation; and, the closing statement. This paper is not designed to be comprehensive in scope as to each stage of the jury trial process, but it is designed to be a reference tool and a guide for the practitioner.
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A divorce lawyer for more than 25 years, Mike McCurley is a name partner in the Dallas family-law firm McCurley, Orsinger, McCurley, Nelson & Downing. During his year of service as president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, McCurley raised awareness among both parents and legal professionals about the negative effects divorce has on children.
In serving as an advocate for her clients in all matters of Family Law at McCurley, Orsinger, McCurley, Nelson & Downing, Elizabeth Durso Branch draws on her experience as a former Bexar County Assistant District Attorney and a former Assistant County Attorney in Guadalupe County. Honing her trial skills in the criminal courts, Elizabeth eventually began relying on those skills to obtain protective orders in the civil district courts for the family violence victims in the assault cases she prosecuted.