Alice is suing Bob, representing herself. She has decided that her best strategy is to catch Bob in a lie to undermine his credibility.
Can Alice call Bob as a witness? What questions can she ask?
Law Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for legal professionals, students, and others with experience or interest in law. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
Yes, in a civil case, Alice generally can call Bob as a witness to take the stand. In many cases, this is done very early, locking in their testimony, before expert witnesses or other evidence by the plaintiff are presented to try and undermine the testimony.
Alice may ask only questions that have relevance to the case. Let's take for example a dispute about a contract:
However, Bob might not need to answer all questions (there are things that are banned from being asked), especially as Bob's attorney will object to questions.
A few examples of competent questioning can be seen towards the end of My Cousin Vinnie, though this is a criminal trial.
In a criminal trial, not only can the prosecution not call Bob to the stand, he has to elect to go to the stand to even be questioned by the prosecution. That is because he can "plead the 5th". There is a tiny exception for civil cases, where they can do so there too.
In general, this is an “it depends” matter.
In Germany, a party cannot be witness in a civil litigation. It is a common tactic in civil litigation to silence unwanted witnesses by including them in the claim as additional defendants. (This means that you need to find a reason for suing that person as part of the same case.)
As the opposite of that strategy, claims are sometimes assigned to someone other than the original creditor just to allow the original creditor to testify as witness while the new creditor can act as plaintiff. Such a maneuver, however, is quite obvious which means that an original creditor has little credibility. On top of that, such a maneuver may cause the defendant to apply the strategy described above in reverse: In order to silence the original creditor as a witness, an action for a negative declaratory judgement (negative Feststellungsklage) may be filed as a third-party counterclaim (Drittwiderklage) against the original creditor. This puts the original creditor in a plaintiff-like position which they originally seeked to avoid.
In penal law, however, a victim can be witness against an offender.