Maureen A. Howard, Smooth Courtroom Moves: The "Exhibit Dance", Apr. 2011 De Novo 7 (2011), https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/faculty-articles/518
Current court rules often require parties to identify proposed exhibits in advance of trial, as well as objections to the other side’s evidence, so the judge can make pretrial rulings on admissibility issues (e.g., FRCP 26). This practice saves precious trial time, minimizes the time that jurors are banished during sidebar discussions between judge and counsel, eliminates in large measure surprises about how the evidence will shape up at trial, and arguably promotes settlement. It also allows the exhibits to be pre-marked for identification, further streamlining the trial process.
Nonetheless, trial lawyers still need to be able to lay hands extemporaneously on a document not previously thought to be needed and smoothly walk through the necessary steps to get it admitted into evidence. Mastering this “old school” skill will reduce an advocate’s anxiety, help her present a polished presentation to the jury, and further convince the court of her competence.
The following steps comprise the basic procedure for offering exhibits at trial. But, as with all trial protocols, the trial judge has broad discretion to dictate practice in his or her courtroom—so it is best to know what is expected.