Cumulative questions in Illinois

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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Repetitive Questions In An Illinois Divorce

Cumulative questions in Illinois

If an Illinois divorce court has determined that your question is relevant and not subject to the bar against hearsay, the witness must answer your question. But once the witness has answered a question you are not allowed to continue to ask the same question repeatedly.

In Illinois, the judge can control the courtroom for the sake of effectiveness and efficiency. This means no repetitive questions will be allowed.

“The court shall exercise reasonable control over the mode and order of interrogating witnesses and presenting evidence so as to (1) make the interrogation and presentation effective for the ascertainment of the truth, (2) avoid needless consumption of time” Rule 611 – Mode and Order of Interrogation and Presentation, Ill. R. Evid. 611

Upon hearing a repetitive question, the opposing counsel can say “Objection! Asked and answered”

The response to such an objection is usually contained within the objection. “It was asked..but it wasn’t answered. That’s why I’m asking it again.”

It’s even easier to say, “Allow me to rephrase my question” until the question is relatively new and, therefore, not repetitive.

A rephrased question that is largely the same as a previous question can be described as being “cumulative”

“Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.” Rule 403 – Exclusion of Relevant Evidence on Grounds of Prejudice, Confusion, or Waste of Time, Ill. R. Evid. 403

Both of the above rules of evidence give the judge a vague yet broad scope of authority in deciding when “enough is enough.”

“A judge may limit the scope of cross-examination, and unless the defendant can show his or her inquiry is not based on a remote or uncertain theory, a court’s ruling limiting the scope of examination will be affirmed.” Tabb, 374 Ill.App.3d at 689, 312 Ill.Dec. 470, 870 N.E.2d 914.

“[T]he circuit court does have broad discretion to preclude improper cross-examination… A trial court properly uses this discretion to preclude repetitive or unduly harassing testimony, or to exclude evidence of bias that is too remote or uncertain.” People v. Prevo, 706 NE 2d 505 – Ill: Appellate Court, 4th Dist. 1999

Repetitive questions to different witnesses may not be repetitive at all.

Multiple witnesses, provide multiple credible perspectives. “[R]epetitive questioning involve[ing] four different witnesses who testified about various matters or even about the same matters, but from different perspectives.” Uhr v. Lutheran General Hosp., 589 NE 2d 723 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist., 3rd Div. 1992

A judge will still have wide latitude in determining if a subsequent witness who confirms prior testimony is cumulative or not. Kirkham v. Will, 724 NE 2d 1062 – Ill: Appellate Court, 5th Dist. 2000

If a question is objected to and that objection is sustained, rephrasing the question is likely to lead to a renewed objection under “asked and answered” without having to restate the original basis for the objection. Fettson v. James, 697 NE 2d 1131 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist., 3rd Div. 1997

Repetitive and Cummulative Things That Are Not Evidence In An Illinois Divorce

The Illinois rules of evidence cover what happens in an Illinois courtroom. Outside of the courtroom there are still bars on other repetitive, cumulative or duplicative requests.

“Duplication of discovery methods to obtain the same information and discovery requests that are disproportionate in terms of burden or expense should be avoided.” Rule 201 – General Discovery Provisions, Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 201

Furthermore, repetitive accusations are also not allowed under the doctrine of res judicata.

“The doctrine of res judicata prevents repetitive litigation in an effort to obtain judicial economy and to protect litigants from the burden of retrying an identical cause of action with the same party or privy.” In re Marriage of Kohl, 778 NE 2d 1169 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist., 2nd Div. 2002

When lawyers start stumbling after an objection in an Illinois divorce trial or hearing, it is easy to keep them off balance by objecting “asked and answered” until they simply give up. Use this tool to make your objections stick! To learn more contact my Chicago, Illinois family law firm to discuss your case with an experienced Chicago divorce attorney.