Legal Memorandum: Golden Rule Statements in Closing Arguments in CA

Issue: May an attorney make disparaging comments about a witness during final arguments in California trial court?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Trial Skills
Keywords: Closing statement; Disparaging comments; Golden rule
Jurisdiction: California
Cited Cases: 155 Cal. App. 3d 955; 60 Cal. App. 4
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 09/01/2008

Counsel is given wide latitude to discuss law and fact in the light most favorable to their case.  Curcio v. Svanevik, 155 Cal. App. 3d 955, 966 (1984).  Impugning a witness’s credibility, calling the witness a liar, setting forth damages analogies like the “golden rule,” and asking the jury to “send a message” are all well within the scope of final argument.  While the “golden rule” argument has been criticized in California,*FN1 there is no apparent error let alone any prejudicial effect on the jury verdict. 


*FN1 Loth v. Truck-A-Way Corp., 60 Cal. App. 4th 757, 764-65 (1998); see Brokopp v. Ford Motor Co., 71 Cal. App. 3d 841, 860 (1977) (party must object or waive right to raise issue on appeal).


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