Opening statement

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An opening statement is, in adversarial legal systems, a statement made by a party at the beginning of a trial or comparable factfinding proceeding, in which that party lays out their case, generally including the points of fact that they intend to demonstrate and to some degree indicating the rhetorical arguments for why they should prevail.


The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)[edit]

Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 186-187.
  • This case not having been opened has thrown a difficulty upon the Court—without presuming to say it ought not to have been the course, considering the state of the matter; I am thinking of the inconvenient situation in which the Court is placed. Parties, I think, should act upon the law as it stands. The usual course is for the counsel for the prosecution to state the facts without reasoning upon them, and such facts as may lead one's attention to that which may be the real question of law in the case. But if a contrary course is to be adopted, and an opening is to be done without, we shall be in great difficulty at the end of the cause.
    • Gaselee, J., Fursey's Case (1833), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 558.
  • That is the great difficulty in not having an opening speech. If there is a speech without any observations, I think it beneficial.
    • Parke, J., Fursey's Case (1833), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 558.
  • It is manifestly fallacious to make the opening of counsel the test on the question of what is "the act or transaction which the Crown prosecutes." It is plain that the Court is not at all bound by the statements made by the counsel in his address.
    • Williams, J., Reg. v. Bird et uxor (1851), 5 Cox, C. C. 65.
  • What is introductory goes for nothing, but it is in order to explain the evidence.
    • John Pratt, C.J., Layer's Case (1722), 16 How. St. Tr. 181.
  • If Mr. Attorney in opening does say anything that he ought not to eay, I will correct him, as I would do anybody that does not open things right as they are proved; but pray don't you that are at the bar interrupt one another, it is unbecoming men of your profession to be chopping in and snapping at one another. Go on, Mr. Attorney.
    • Wright, L.C.J., Trial of the Seven Bishops (1688), 12.

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