Can the use of Leading Questions of an Adverse Party be Prohibited in a Party’s Case-in-Chief?

A trial court possesses discretion to determine whether to allow leading questions.  See Ramage v. Central Ohio Emergency Serv., Inc. (1992), 64 Ohio St.3d 97, 592 N.E.2d 828, paragraph three of the syllabus.

Evid.R. 611 mandates that courts must “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, and (3) protect witnesses from harassment or undue embarrassment.”

Evid.R. 611(C) further provides that “[l]eading questions should not be used on the direct examination of a witness except as may be necessary to develop the witness’ testimony. Ordinarily leading questions should be permitted on cross-examination. When a party calls a hostile witness, an adverse party, or a witness identified with an adverse party, interrogation may be by leading questions.”

It is axiomatic that a trial court is permitted to exercise its discretion for the use of leading questions on the direct examination of a witness.  The Ohio Supreme Court has stated that “the allowing or refusing of leading questions in the examination of a witness must very largely be subject to the control of the court.”  Seley v. G.D. Searle & Co. (1981), 67 Ohio St.2d 192.

Consequently, use care when calling an adverse party in your case-in-chief, and make sure that the trial court permits you to use leading questions before proceeding.