In a civil trial, the law itself is usually not up for debate. But the facts might be, and they can determine which laws are applicable. To a large extent, legal confrontation in the lower courts is an attempt to present the facts of the case in a way that prompt an application of law that leads to the desired outcome. A Statement of Facts does not present a legal argument, but can nonetheless create a compelling reason why a certain line of legal reasoning should be followed by the court.
- Skill level:
Choose a theme and context. While facts themselves can be proven, their meaning and significance is often based on the context in which they appear and the point-of-view from which they're described. An effective Statement of Facts should have a unified theme that is developed and substantiated with each fact presented. The theme is based not only in the relevant law and policy, but by the emotional charge of the situation and the nature of the parties.
Begin each fact with a brief sentence of non-argumentative fact. In a manner similar to the style of this article, each enumerated fact in a Statement of Facts should be begin with a brief declaratory sentence.
Identify parties with subtle but emotionally charged terms. Though it must be done carefully to avoid objection, the parties should be identified consistently throughout the Statement of Fact with a term that conveys the theme and desired perspective. For example, if you want a party to be thought of as a large corporation, don't refer to them with a bland term like "the Defendant," but instead use "the corporation" or "the conglomerate."
Avoid facts that contradict your theme and perspective. It is the job of the other party to establish facts that run contrary to your statement of the case. Don't do it for them. Instead, emphasise the facts that lead toward your desired outcome.
Diminish your opponent's facts without exhausting your possibilities. Though the Statement of Facts is not the place to argue, it is possible to offer facts that refute your opponent's presentation. Do this carefully in a way that avoids arguing their facts and instead presents contradictory facts. So, if the other side asserts there was a warning label on the package, you can say, "Despite the presence of the warning label, the label itself was relatively small and not obvious, and it's language was not easily understood."
Show, don't tell. Just as a fiction writer is most effective when he describes a scene rather than stating emotions, the Statement of Facts should paint a vivid picture in its presentation of facts. For example, instead of saying, "the spouse reacted angrily," say "the spouse reacted by throwing the phone against the wall and shouting profanities."
Tips and warnings
- In theory, an effective Statement of Facts will preclude any other argument. While in practice this is not always the case, a Motion for Summary Judgment is a pleading that requests the court to make a decision based simply on the admitted facts of the case and is a powerful way to win a legal contest.
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