John Day’s New Book – Tennessee Law of Civil Trial

My newest book, Tennessee Law of Civil Trial, will be released on July 1, 2014 and may be ordered now for July 1 delivery.

The book consists of 500+ pages of the law of civil trial in Tennessee, covering the law of scheduling orders to the law of motions for a new trial or judgment notwithstanding the verdict.  Also included is a chapter called "Preparing to Win At Trial" which consists of over 75 tips that I have developed over the years and multiple forms and checklists. 

Click on the link to see the Table of Contents

The introduction gives you a feel how I can to write the book and why:

Like it or not, for better or worse, the number of civil jury trials continues to decline.  A discussion of the reasons for the lack of jury trials is better left to another forum, but one of the many consequences of this phenomenon is that lawyers have an increasing unfamiliarity with the law of trial.

The law of trial is a set of rules and procedures designed to ensure that a fair trial will be conducted before a proper jury and provide an adequate record for examination of claimed errors on appeal.  One may debate the merits of many of these rules and procedures, but one cannot debate their existence or the potential consequences for the failure to understand and apply them.

The idea for this book was formed when I was trying a medical malpractice case before the Honorable James T. Hamilton in Columbia, Tennessee in the winter of 2008.  While driving home on the first Friday night of what turned out to be a thirteen-day jury trial, I began to think about the numerous legal issues that arose in jury selection and during the first five trial days.  I then thought about how I came to know that these issues were in fact issues, and how I learned the law of these issues.  I quickly realized that my knowledge base was not from law school, but arose from two separate sources.

First, my knowledge came from actually trying cases. I had the advantage of working with one of Nashville’s finest trial lawyers, the late John T. Conners, Jr., who permitted me to have trial experience early in my career.  Mr. Conners had a high-quality plaintiff’s practice, and therefore he frequently drew high-quality defense counsel.  Thus, I had an opportunity to learn not only from Mr. Conners, but also very competent adverse counsel.

Second, my work founding and writing two monthly publications (the Tennessee Tort Law Letter and later the Tennessee Trial Law Report) meant that I was reading several hundred appellate court decisions each year.  In the early years, these court opinions frequently discussed the law of trial and thus my knowledge of the field expanded.

But, I asked that night driving home, how could today’s younger lawyers learn the law of trial?  Simply reading current and future case law will not do it because the decreasing number of trials results in a decreasing number of appeals on cases that have been tried.  Researching prior case law is possible only if you know the issues that require research, and doing so in the middle of trial is impractical.  And actually trying cases no longer provides a way to reach the requisite knowledge base because there are not enough trials for the vast majority of lawyers to learn the law.

So, in the middle of Howell v. Turner, on Saturday afternoon, March 1, 2008, I drafted the first table of contents for what has now become Tennessee Law of Civil Trial.  The goal was – and is – to provide a readable, concise summary of the law of civil trial in Tennessee.

The book is designed to be used in three different ways.  First, the inexperienced lawyer can pick up this book, read it cover-to-cover, and have an immediate, comprehensive understanding of the law of trial in Tennessee civil cases.  Simply reading this book will not make the reader an excellent trial lawyer, but it will give the reader a solid grasp of the law of civil trials in Tennessee and thus more confidence in the courtroom.

Second, experienced trial lawyers can use this book as a source to refresh their recollection on law that was once known but has slipped away with the passage of time.

Third, both inexperienced and experienced trial lawyers can use this book as a resource in the middle of trial, to give guidance on an issue that was not identified before trial.

All three intended uses of this book require it to be concise.  Lawyers do not have time to read a treatise on the law of opening statement or jury selection.  Particularly for questions that arise during trial, lawyers need to be able to find the law quickly.

Thus, this book does not include a multitude of string cites.  It also does not purport to give an answer to every possible question that may arise during trial.  While certain evidentiary issues are discussed, the book is not a treatise on the law of evidence, that subject being left to the fine work of Neil Cohen, Sarah Sheppard and the late, great Donald Paine.  Quite candidly, I cannot imagine trying cases in Tennessee without a current copy of Tennessee Law of Evidence within arm’s reach.

Finally, this book is not a trial advocacy guide.  For example, it does not purport to tell a lawyer how to conduct jury selection, how to conduct an opening statement, etc.  I could not help but to include a few practical suggestions and indeed have included a chapter with some practical suggestions on preparing for trial, but in an effort both to keep the book concise and to be true to its title, the book is largely a discussion of law.

I hope this book helps you better serve your clients.

I believe the book meets the intended goal:  a ready resource for all lawyers who try civil cases in Tennessee courts of record.  

As any one who as ever written a book knows, every book is a team effort.  If you choose to purchase the book, please review the Acknowledgements section where I recognize those who helped me in this project.