Objection (law)

Objection (law)

In the law of the United States of America, an objection is a formal protest raised in court during a trial to disallow a witness's testimony or other evidence which would be in violation of the rules of evidence or other procedural law. An objection is typically raised after the opposing party asks a question of the witness, but before the witness can answer, or when the opposing party is about to enter something into evidence. The judge then makes a ruling on whether the objection is "sustained" (the judge agrees with the objection and disallows the question, testimony, or evidence) or "overruled" (the judge disagrees with the objection and allows the question, testimony, or evidence). An attorney may choose to "rephrase" a question that has been objected to, so long as the judge permits it. Lawyers should make an objection before there was an answer to the question.


Objections generally

An objection may also be raised against a judge's ruling, in order to preserve the right to appeal the ruling. Objections are also commonly used in depositions during the discovery process to preserve the right to exclude testimony from being considered as evidence in support of or in opposition to a later motion, such as a motion for summary judgment.


Historically, at trial, an attorney had to promptly take an exception (by saying "I except" followed by a reason) immediately after an objection was overruled in order to preserve it for appeal, or else the objection was permanently waived. In addition, at the end of the trial, the attorney had to submit a written "bill of exceptions" listing all the exceptions which he intended to appeal upon, which the judge then signed and sealed, making it part of the trial record. Eventually most lawyers and judges came to recognize that exceptions were a waste of time because the objection itself and the context of the surrounding record are all the appellate court really needs to resolve the point in dispute. Starting in the 1930s, exceptions were abolished in the federal courts[1] and in many state courts as well. For example, California did not technically abolish exceptions, but merely rendered them superfluous by simply treating just about every ruling of the trial court as automatically excepted to.[2] Thus, in nearly all U.S. courts, it is now sufficient that the objection was clearly made on the record. A few jurisdictions still use exceptions, such as Oregon and North Carolina.

Exceptions in North Carolina

Although exceptions to objections can be used in North Carolina, they are not required.

Rule 46(a)(2), North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure.[3]

If there is proper objection to the admission of evidence and the objection is overruled, the ruling of the court shall be deemed excepted to by the party making the objection. If an objection to the admission of evidence is sustained or if the court for any reason excludes evidence offered by a party, the ruling of the court shall be deemed excepted to by the party offering the evidence.

So in Civil Actions in North Carolina an exception may be made. However, if the objection was proper an exception is not necessary.

North Carolina General Statute 15A-1446(a).[4]

Except as provided in subsection (d), error may not be asserted upon appellate review unless the error has been brought to the attention of the trial court by appropriate and timely objection or motion. No particular form is required in order to preserve the right to assert the alleged error upon appeal if the motion or objection clearly presented the alleged error to the trial court. Formal exceptions are not required, but when evidence is excluded a record must be made in the manner provided in G.S. 1A‑1, Rule 43(c), in order to assert upon appeal error in the exclusion of that evidence.

In criminal cases in North Carolina the same applies. Exceptions are not required.

Types of objections

Continuing objection

A continuing objection is an objection to a series of questions about a related point. A continuing objection may be made, in the discretion of the court, to preserve an issue for appeal without distracting the factfinder (whether jury or judge) with an objection to every question. A continuing objection is made where the objection itself is overruled, but the trial judge permits the continuing objection to that point to be made silently so that there are fewer interruptions.


  1. ^ Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 46, promulgated in 1938 as part of the original version of the FRCP, states that "A formal exception to a ruling or order is unnecessary." Federal Rule of Evidence 103(a) states that once "the court makes a definitive ruling on the record admitting or excluding evidence, either at or before trial, a party need not renew an objection or offer of proof to preserve a claim of error for appeal."
  2. ^ California Evidence Code Section 647.
  3. ^ North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure.
  4. ^ North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 15A.

External links

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