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I've been reading the notes for a recent prolific court case, and in the records of what was said the phrase "Object to the form." comes up quite a lot.

What does this phrase mean?

(If it is at all relevant, I believe the law in play is US law, but I do not know where exactly the case is taking place.)


As requested in the comments, here are some examples from the case notes, with names redacted.

Example 1:

A I don't recall.

Q Is it possible?

A It's a possibility.

MR. [REDACTED]: Object to the form.

Example 2:

Q. And, indeed, you would agree with me that if this individual claimed that Ms. [REDACTED] had something to do with the events listed in Narrative 1, you would have folded up on it, as the investigating detective, right?

MS. [REDACTED]: Object to the form.

THE WITNESS: Either myself or Detective [REDACTED] would have.

  • We need more context - right now I can’t tell if it’s an object (a physical thing) or object (protesting against), similarly form has several definitions – Dale M Oct 5 at 21:39
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    @DaleM I would presume that it's 'object' as an intransitive verb, if 'object' were a noun then the sentence would be ungrammatical. I could link to the document but it's a 685 page 146MB .pdf so anyone wanting to read it would have a long wait to download it. Being a .pdf, copying the relevant text is difficult. I could screenshot it I suppose, but I would have to chose an example carefully as some people may find the surrounding context upsetting. – Pharap Oct 5 at 23:46
  • you should be able to copy paste from a PDF - that functionality is built into the reader. – Dale M Oct 6 at 6:34
  • @DaleM I had tried before but the text was being garbled when pasted. I have since tried again without issue, so I suspect there was an encoding issue or perhaps a bug with my pdf reader. I shall update the question with some examples, specifically chosen for their lack of potentially upsetting wording, and with names redacted so people don't become distracted by the nature of the case in question. – Pharap Oct 7 at 1:59
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In a deposition, attorneys are supposed to keep their objections short and refrain from making an objection that indicates to the witness how he should answer.

A question might be objectionable because it lacks foundation, because it is compound, because it calls for speculation, etc. Example 2, for instance, could be said to assume that Ms. Redacted was involved, and I might not want my client to discuss how he would act in that situation.

Some attorneys in that situation might say, "Objection, assumes that Ms. Redacted had anything to do with this, which you haven't proved, and it's impossible to say what would have happened under circumstances that never happened." This gives my client a pretty clear signal that he ought to make clear that Ms. Redacted wasn't around, and that he should try to avoid getting pinned down on any questions about what he would have done if she had been.

This practice -- known as "a speaking objection" -- can be used to signal to the witness how best to answer, and it leads to huge fights in a deposition. To avoid those fights, courts have developed a practice of requiring lawyers to simply "object to the form," rather than coaching the witness. That puts the objection on the record so it isn't waived, and if it's truly problematic, the parties have an opportunity to explain in greater detail after the deposition is concluded.

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