What does a judge do is there is a leading question asked by one party towards a witness during direct examination, and the other party doesn’t object to it? I’m writing a paper on the procedure of court rooms, and I can’t seem to find an awnser to this question.

2 Answers 2


If no one objects to a leading question, then the judge does nothing. A judge does not generally pro-actively police the rules of evidence at trial. Also, there are circumstances when a judge has discretion to allow a leading question even when it wouldn't ordinarily be allowed to move the trial along on largely undisputed points or to allow in inarticulate witness to testify.

The exception to judicial passivity in the absence of an objection at trial is "plain error" that is not "harmless error", which a judge has a duty to prevent or address even if no objection is raised by a party. But, offering a leading question when one is not allowed by the rules of evidence almost never constitutes plain error, and would almost always be considered "harmless error" even if it was objected to and the judge ruled incorrectly, unless the use of improper leading questions was pervasive and there was a contemporaneous objection by counsel.

For example, allowing a prospective juror to serve as a juror, despite that juror saying in the jury selection process that he can't be impartial because the defendant committed adultery with his spouse, because neither the prosecution or the defense attorney moves to strike the juror for cause, rather than striking that juror for cause of the court's own accord, is the kind of conduct that would often be considered "plain error" that is not "harmless error."

  • Can we assert that it would not be plain error if the judge ruled the answer inadmissible sua sponte, without an objection.
    – user6726
    Oct 5, 2018 at 0:03
  • If a judge rules bars the question sua sponte then the evidence doesn't come in and it isn't error unless a leading question was allowed in that circumstance and the evidence was otherwise admitted. The sua sponte ruling would only be plain error if it clearly should have been admitted and that ruling kept the information out, which it rarely would because a non-leading question could be posed instead.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 5, 2018 at 0:08

What does a judge do is there is a leading question asked by one party towards a witness during direct examination, and the other party doesn’t object to it?

Answers are admitted to the record if the leading question is made to:

  • an adverse witness, regardless of the objection of leading-question being raised (see Michigan Rule of Evidence 611(d)(2) and (3)); or
  • the witness is not adverse and the opposing party does not raise the objection.

Other federal and state jurisdictions in the U.S. have their equivalent of MRE 611(d)(2)-(3). As I mentioned elsewhere, there is so much of jurisdictional ripoffs when it comes to rules of civil procedure, rules of evidence, rules of professional conduct, and so forth.

  • 2
    If the council that does not object to the question is silent, then the judge assumes he's fine with the question as is. An Adverse Witness is called a "Hostile Witness" and can apply to witnesses that are not hostile to a lay person... I.E. Young children are treated as hostile witnesses because they sometimes need to be better directed to the answer.
    – hszmv
    Oct 4, 2018 at 20:57

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