- Posted on: Jan 6 2022
By: Ryan Kennedy
If you are reading this, you may have recently been asked to sit for a deposition. Do not be afraid. Unlike the courtroom dramas you may see depicted in movies or tv shows, most depositions can be rather dull, benign events; if you want them to be.
There is no judge at a deposition. Rather, the attorneys, their clients, and whoever is being deposed sit together in a conference room with a court reporter. They are at the deposition to learn more about their case and the witness. Though no two depositions are alike, and there is no true formula for how depositions proceed, this post is intended to present what you can generally expect to encounter.
The deposition begins with you, the “deponent,” being placed under oath. Often the attorney conducting the deposition will start by asking you to identify yourself. Questions like this may seem silly because the attorney certainly knows who you are. However, keep in mind that one purpose of the deposition is to create a transcript. If necessary, someone unfamiliar with the case (like a judge) will read the transcript later. They need to understand who you are, what was asked, what was said, and what the case was about.
To keep the deposition running smoothly, an attorney may next go over some instructions that sound a lot like the topics covered here. Often this includes a reminder not to talk over one another. You should let the attorney finish the question, and they will let you finish your answer. Court reporters find it difficult to type out the words of two people talking at the same time.
As the questions begin, your attorney may object at times. Let them finish their objection before you answer. Hopefully, the attorneys will obey the same directive to not talk over one another, as the objections are not ruled on at the deposition. Remember that no judge is present. Instead, before using the deposition transcript in further proceedings, either party may later ask a judge to resolve the objection. Needless to say, unless your attorney instructs you not to answer a question, you have to answer.
During the initial portion of your deposition, the attorney may ask for a lot of background information concerning your work, education, prior residences, or other general topics. To most people, it seems silly and irrelevant to the issue at hand. However, the deposition is not just an opportunity to learn what you know about the case. The deposition is also an opportunity to learn about who you are and what kind of witness you may be. In many cases, very little of this background information is ever used, but the questions are nonetheless allowed.
During the course of your deposition, it is generally advisable to listen carefully to the question that is asked and answer only the question that is asked. If you don’t like a question or feel a question isn’t fair, let your own attorney worry about dealing with the question. Witnesses get frustrated and drag out their depositions when they try to give anything other than direct, simple, and honest answers to the questions asked.
At the end of the deposition, depending on the jurisdiction, you may be asked to “read and sign” or “waive” reading of the deposition transcript. The attorneys are referring to the opportunity to read your deposition and mark any mistakes made by the court reporter on an “errata” sheet. Typically, the focus is on typographical mistakes, as substantive changes (turning a “yes” into a “no”) may cause you to be deposed again.
Overall, the best way to approach your deposition is to relax and carefully follow the instructions and advice your attorney gives you. Feel free to ask for a break when no questions are pending, and reward yourself after for a job well done.
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