With the jury still out and a gag order in place, Houston lawyer Rusty Hardin couldn’t talk on June 15 about defending former Houston Astro Roger Clemens in his perjury trial in Washington, D.C.
But Hardin, who shared trial tips and strategies with about 120 lawyers at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, offered one tidbit about the Clemens trial: A waiter at a D.C. restaurant recognized Hardin one evening when he and his wife were having dinner, and told him he had read in the Washington Post that Hardin wore a seersucker suit to court. In the story, Washington Post reporters described Hardin as a “flamboyant attorney clad in a cream-colored seersucker suit and an orange tie as bright as a reflective safety vest.” Hardin expressed some amazement that the waiter would know about his courtroom attire, but said his wardrobe is often interesting to reporters.
During the Arthur Andersen trial in Houston, for instance, Hardin said, reporters wrote about his colorful suits and ties in contrast to the dark suit/conservative tie attire of other lawyers in the courtroom. Hardin also said juries in two recent trials told him they tried to predict each day what color tie he would wear to court. The attention to his clothing is not a problem, because it shows that people are paying attention to him, said Hardin, of Rusty Hardin & Associates.
During the hour-long talk at the State Bar meeting, held at the George R. Brown in Houston, Hardin gave some insight into how he tries cases. During voir dire, Hardin said, lawyers should pick jurors they like and with whom they feel comfortable, and forget about the prospective juror’s gender, age or race. The biggest mistakes lawyers make when picking a jury, in Hardin’s view, are failing to really listen to what prospective jurors say during voir dire, and failing to ask open-ended questions. “I want to know who they are, how they feel about things,” he said about the value of open-ended questions.
During direct examination, he tells his witnesses always to look at him when answering questions, unless he tells them otherwise, because directing answers at a jury is “hokey.”
Hardin said people often describe him as “folksy” as a catch-all for a friendly Southerner. He said it’s true he tries to come across as the most comfortable person in the courtroom -- that’s a good way to make jurors feel comfortable.
-- Brenda Sapino Jeffreys