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This question relates to a landlord tenant trial in NJ in which the landlord ("Plaintiff") is being represented by an attorney.

The Defendant wishes to cross examine the Plaintiff directly because it is unlikely that the Plaintiff's attorney has much knowledge about the topics the Defendants intends to discuss. The Defendant also believes that the attorney may do a better job at concealing the truth.

Does the Defendant have a legal right to insist on cross examining the Plaintiff or can the Plaintiff argue that he isn't required to agree to be cross examined directly as it infringes on his legal right to be represented by an attorney?

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    I'm not sure about the answer in New Jersey, but my instinct would be that the defendant has to choose between having an attorney and representing himself. If he has an attorney, the attorney does the cross examination; if Plaintiff represents himself, he does the cross examination himself. I don't think he can have it both ways in a civil case. In any event, it's incredibly unlikely that the defendant is going to be a more effective cross-examiner. He needs to communicate the relevant facts to his attorney so the attorney can conduct the examination effectively.
    – bdb484
    Nov 22, 2022 at 18:09
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    @bdb484 I think the question is stipulating that the Plaintiff is represented by an attorney and the Defendant is pro se, which isn't too unusual in a landlord-tenant dispute. After all, if you are having trouble paying the rent, you probably can't afford to hire a lawyer if you default on a lease. To that end, I think the querent is asking, does the Defendant have a right to compel the Plaintiff to appear in court and respond to questions? Nov 22, 2022 at 18:17
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    @bdb484 @ _Pyrotechnical is correct about the intent of the question. As _Pyrotechnical stated, the Defendant is pro se and wishes to question the Plaintiff (who is being represented by an attorney) directly. The Defendant does not want the Plaintiff's attorney to respond to the cross examination questions as he is more likely to skirt the truth. I guess it boils down to two points 1) if the Defendant can force the Plaintiff to appear at trial 2) if the Plaintiff is already at trial (with his lawyer) can the Defendant ask the judge to question him directly?
    – S.O.S
    Nov 22, 2022 at 18:37
  • Oh. I misread. The answer is very clear. See below.
    – bdb484
    Nov 22, 2022 at 18:49
  • What is a LT trial? Mar 6, 2023 at 18:06

2 Answers 2

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Yes, Defendant may compel Plaintiff to appear and may cross-examine Plaintiff personally. The right to counsel does not include the right to have an attorney testify for you at trial.

At trial or deposition, Plaintiff's lawyer generally has no business testifyng at all, and his statements would not be evidence. If the attorney's testimony is necessary for trial, he would likely be disqualified from representing Plaintiff.

Defendant is unlikely to persuade the judge to question Plaintiff for him. The judge might ask questions to clarify answers that Defendant elicits himself, but he might also just rule based on whatever information he receives, regardless of how clear it is.

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  • Generally in civil court, the plaintiff must testify during the course of the trial and you have a right to examine evidence presented against you (testimony at trial is evidence).
    – hszmv
    Nov 22, 2022 at 18:53
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If the plaintiff chooses to testify (as s/he might very well, because the plaintiff often best knows the events giving rise to the cause of action) the defendant (or the defendant's lawyer) may cross-examine. If the plaintiff does not choose to testify, the the defendant may call him or her as a witness, to testify to any relevant matters within the plaintiff's knowledge, and the defendant may ask the judge for permission to treat the plaintiff as a hostile witness. This allows much the same rules to apply as on cross-examination, and such a ruling would be routine.

Much the same rules would apply should the plaintiff wish to call the defendant to testify.

Neither party's lawyer may testify for that party, and indeed normally neither lawyer may testify at all.

Being represented by a lawyer is in no way incompatible with testifying to relevant, admirable facts.

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  • In LT trial cross examination occurs before testimony. Could the Defendant cross examine the Plaintiff before the Judge hears the Plaintiff's testimony? The Defendant wishes not only to ask questions related to the Plaintiff's testimony but also regarding other issues surrounding the case which he plans on using as evidence in his own testimony.
    – S.O.S
    Nov 22, 2022 at 19:02
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    @S.O.S. That is procedurally very unusual. Can you cite or link to the rules of procedure which specify this? Nov 22, 2022 at 19:06
  • @ _David Siegel I don't have a link it was based on a recent experience. But I think you are correct; after the Plaintiff testified the Judge asked the Defendant "Do you have any questions for the other side?". I guess that means that cross examination comes after the Plaintiff testifies. Presumably, the questions the Defendant may bring up aren't limited to the Plaintiff 's testimony and can be anything the Defendant deems related to the case?
    – S.O.S
    Nov 22, 2022 at 19:15
  • The usual procedur is that each witness is cross-examined after s/he testifies. In many landlord/tenant cases, the two parties are the only witnesses. The limits of cross-examination vary by court, and landlord cases are sometimes more informal than other cases. I will need to see if I can find written procedures for NJ landlord cases. Nov 22, 2022 at 19:21
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    @S.O.S The questions put forth during cross examination necessarily come after the witness' direct examination.
    – A.fm.
    Nov 24, 2022 at 3:02

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