Unresponsive answers from a witness in Illinois court

Russell Knight

Russell D. Knight has been practicing family law as a Chicago divorce lawyer since 2006. Russell D. Knight amicably resolves tough cases while remaining a strong advocate for his client’s interests.

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Nonresponsive Answers In An Illinois Divorce

Unresponsive answers from a witness in Illinois court

While questioning a witness in an Illinois divorce hearing or trial, the witness may provide an answer…that is not the answer to your question.

Answering a question with an evasive or equivocal answer is either dumb, rude or manipulative. Answers such as these should be brought to the court’s attention with an objection…by the questioner, themselves.

Upon receiving an answer which is not the answer to your question, you may object “Objection. Nonresponsive! Please strike that answer from the record.”

“It is the duty of the court to strike nonresponsive answers to questions, when a proper motion to do so is made.” People v. Fritz, 417 NE 2d 612 – Ill: Supreme Court 1981

The judge should say, “the answer is stricken from the record,” which indicates that the judge will not consider the answer when weighing evidence.

Furthermore, the judge should direct the witness to answer the question properly.

The reason why nonresponsive answers must be objected to is that the questioning attorney has the right to present his or her case in the manner he or she so chooses.

“[I]t is an obvious requisite of orderly procedure that each side have a voice in determining the order in which the truth shall be told. But to deny the questioning attorney the privilege of having non-responsive answers stricken would make the course of direct examination infinitely more difficult and render cross examination virtually useless. Thus, the right to object to nonresponsive answers is one facet of a party’s right to present his case.” People v. Colts, 645 NE 2d 225 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist., 2nd Div. 1993 (Citations And Quotes Omitted)

A witness answering with nonsense derails the questioning attorney’s case structure and format. The witness must be brought back in line.

Only the attorney asking the questions may object to an answer being nonresponsive.

“An attorney who is not conducting the examination may not have unresponsive testimony stricken” Hester v. Goldsbury, 212 NE 2d 316 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist., 4th Div. 1965

Nonresponsive Discovery Answers In An Illinois Divorce

Testimony in court is not the only evidence an Illinois divorce court can consider. An Illinois divorce court can also consider judicial admissions from outside of court.

“Judicial admissions are defined as deliberate, clear, unequivocal statements by a party about a concrete fact within that party’s knowledge.” In re Estate of Rennick, 692 NE 2d 1150 – Ill: Supreme Court 1998

You can elicit judicial admissions via discovery deposition, interrogatories and requests to admit. The questions in these procedures and requests must be answered.

“[A] party has a good-faith obligation to make a reasonable effort to secure answers to requests to admit from persons and documents within the responding party’s reasonable control.” HSBC BANK USA, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION v. Rowe, 36 NE 3d 254 – Ill: Appellate Court, 3rd Dist. 2015

Failure to answer or providing evasive or irrelevant answers can allow the requester to file a motion to compel a proper answer. The court will either force the witness to answer or bar the witnesses’ other testimony.

“If a party or other deponent refuses to answer any written question upon the taking of his or her deposition or if a party fails to answer any interrogatory served upon him or her, or to comply with a request for the production of documents or tangible things or inspection of real property, the proponent of the question or interrogatory or the party serving the request may on like notice move for an order compelling an answer or compliance with the request.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 219

If a party, or any person at the instance of or in collusion with a party, unreasonably fails to comply with any provision of part E of article II of the rules of this court (Discovery, Requests for Admission, and Pretrial Procedure) or fails to comply with any order entered under these rules, the court, on motion, may enter…orders..including…[t]hat further proceedings be stayed until the order or rule is complied with…[or] [t]hat a witness be barred from testifying concerning that issue” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 219

The proper way to refuse to answer a discovery request is with an objection.

“Where a party responds to requests for admissions in the form of objections to those requests, it is the duty of the requesting party to raise the issue of the objection in a motion before the trial court.” HSBC BANK USA, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION v. Rowe, 36 NE 3d 254 – Ill: Appellate Court, 3rd Dist. 2015

“Any objection to a request or to an answer shall be heard by the court upon prompt notice and motion of the party making the request.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 216

Force your witnesses to comply with your rules. Do not allow foolish answers. Make the witness answer YOUR questions.

To learn more about how to control your trial and your discovery leading to trial, contact my Chicago, Illinois family law firm to speak with an experienced Chicago divorce attorney.