While getting ready for a trial or a legal deposition in San Jose, witness preparation often takes center stage. It is imperative that your witness understands the purpose and format of the legal deposition, and the function of the court reporter . Every witness should be made aware that the court reporter takes down verbatim questions and responses, which is why concise, non-speculative answers are so important. However, there are limits to witness preparation and those limits include witness coaching.
Witness coaching can refer to any unethical or illegal practice, including instructions and training. Among the most reprehensible of these practices is instructing a witness to commit perjury. Most lawyers would never take such an unethical approach, but it’s worth noting that some lawyers do use indirect, suggestive manners of influencing witnesses to craft their responses in a way that is less than wholly truthful. This certainly falls under the category of unethical witness coaching and it’s important for attorneys to guard against inadvertently engaging in these tactics.
If you have worked with an agency court reporter in the past, you are probably already familiar with the many effective uses of technology in legal depositions and in the courtroom. Deposition video and other recorded evidence can certainly bolster your case if done correctly and court reporting agencies serving San Jose can make sure this recorded evidence is properly prepared. Unfortunately, this also means that the counsel for the other party could also use recorded evidence to support the case against your client. Before heading to court, you may wish to brush up on the basics of objecting to recorded evidence.
While preparing a case, it is always a good idea to review any applicable requirements in the jurisdiction and any rulings issued by the judge. At present, almost all courts have issued rulings with regard to the admissibility of recorded evidence and their verification requirements. Of course, it is essential that you follow these requirements when preparing and presenting your recorded evidence, but you may also be able to use violations of these requirements by the opposing counsel as grounds for evidentiary objections. For example, in California, a party must provide a transcript of the deposition or the prior testimony to the court before that party can offer into evidence any recordings. When the recording is played in court, legal counsel is required to identify the corresponding page and line numbers of the transcript.
Effective lawyers lodge objections when doing so will serve their case. It is often thought that objecting too many times within a short period of time will only serve to frustrate the jury and possibly to prejudice a few jurors against the objecting lawyer. This is a matter of opinion, but regardless of where you stand on the issue, it’s important to have a firm grasp on when you can object to recorded evidence prepared by a court reporter. Some of the most common grounds for evidentiary objections are as follows:
- The recorded evidence is irrelevant.
- The recorded evidence lacks sufficient foundation or authentication.
- The recorded evidence is prejudicial or is a matter of hearsay.
- The recorded evidence depicts circumstances that are not sufficiently similar to those at stake in this litigation.
It is also wise to thoroughly review your own recorded evidence to identify any potential grounds for objections by the other party.
Many future lawyers begin law school with the vision of themselves arguing important cases in courtrooms, but every practicing litigator knows that the majority of civil cases are settled before they ever go to trial. Although your witness might never take the stand in a courtroom, he or she is almost certainly going to be deposed before a court reporter. And before meeting your client at a legal deposition in San Jose, it’s important to prepare him or her thoroughly and ethically.
Understanding the Role of Ethical Witness Preparation
The thought of being deposed is nerve-wracking for many people. The stress of the situation can lead a witness to give more information than is asked for, to give speculative responses, and to display negative body language. The latter issue is problematic if the legal deposition is being videotaped. Thorough witness preparation is a way to mitigate these problems or avoid them altogether. An effective process for witness preparation involves educating the client about what to expect from the deposition and the court reporter, the types of questions that may be asked, and the importance of truthful answers. In addition, witness preparation serves the following purposes:
- It allows the lawyer to evaluate the witness’s recollection.
- It allows the lawyer to consider effective ways of presenting this recollection.
- It provides a means of strategizing ethical ways of defending the testimony of the witness.
Identifying Ethical Strategies for Preparing Witnesses
One of the first steps in ethical witness preparation should be to ascertain whether the witness is already familiar with the format, process, and purposes of legal depositions. Even if the witness has been deposed before, it is imperative to remind him or her that he or she will be under oath and is required by law to answer truthfully. It is ethical to rehearse the witness’s testimony, to review the facts of the case, and to inform the witness of how the law applies to the issues at hand. It is also ethical to advise the witness of the likely questions that will arise during cross-examination. Attorneys may offer suggestions regarding word choice, but only if these suggestions are intended to clarify the testimony—not to substantively change the testimony.
In the courtroom and during depositions , visual aids can be useful. However, it is important to use them in the right way so that they support your case and can used as part of the official record created by your court reporter in San Jose. If you plan to use visual aids as part of a deposition or trial, these tips will help.
Be sure the visual aids you create are in a form that can be presented to a jury and to the opposing counsel. If you simply make notes on a whiteboard, the court reporter may not be able to include it in the court transcript, and you won’t be able to make your aid part of the official court record for use by the judge and jury if the case goes to trial. If you have questions about presenting visual aids as part of a legal or court deposition, your court reporter may be able to offer helpful advice.
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