If You Didn’t Ask, You Can’t Complain

By Karen L. Dowd

I propose a universal Silver Rule (since the Golden Rule is already taken). If you didn’t ask for it, you can’t complain about it. I would say it should be taught from Kindergarten on up, but let’s be honest, Kindergarteners are usually very good at asking for what they want.

So I propose it be taught in Law Schools instead. Because in the Appellate World, if you didn’t ask for it below, you can’t bring it up. If you don’t plead the claim, you can’t raise it at trial. If you don’t object to evidence, you can’t complain that it came in. If you want to put in evidence, you have to try, and then you have to make a record as to what it was and why you need it. If you don’t ask for a charge to the jury, you can’t complain it wasn’t given. I could go on all day.

Oh, sure there are exceptions to every rule (except to the Golden Rule). But it’s so much easier to argue an appeal if the issue has been properly raised and preserved below. And more importantly, you may change the outcome of the case at trial if you ask for what you want clearly and directly.