Do you have a witness who can’t be present for a court hearing? Are you hoping to eliminate surprises and feel more confident entering a trial? Depositions are the ideal way to gather testimonies, evidence, and expertise from third parties before the case appears before a judge. If you are new to the legal process, or have been asked to give a court deposition, learn more about this process to help you understand why it’s so important.
What is a deposition?
A deposition is a witness interview that goes on the record before the trial takes place. Sometimes, depositions are recorded on paper only, but video depositions enhance the narrative and provide more credibility.
No matter what form they take, depositions are the foundation of a legal case. In fact, some are so convincing that they persuade the other party to drop the charges or settle the case outside of court.
How long should a deposition be?
A legal deposition can be as short or long as necessary for the witness to deliver their sworn statement. However, in California, depositions are limited to seven hours per day. This limit coincides with federal law.
Where do depositions typically take place?
An attorney’s office is the most common place for depositions to be held. Both parties can also agree to meet in a secure, third-party location outside the courthouse.
Conference rooms at court reporting firms are specifically designed to facilitate legal depositions in a private setting. Video conferencing is also available to allow for remote depositions to take place if the witness is out of state.
How does an attorney prepare for a deposition?
Attorneys with years of experience taking depositions may not require much preparation. However, it’s recommended that they answer the witness’s questions and tell them what to expect during the interview to make them feel as comfortable as possible. Keep in mind that attorneys are prohibited from leading or coaching the witness, which could affect the testimony the witness provides.
What should an attorney do during a deposition?
To help the process go smoothly, attorneys should do the following when taking depositions:
- Provide everyone in attendance with instructions before the interview begins.
- Make the environment as comfortable as possible for all participants.
- Instruct the witness to answer questions as succinctly as possible without providing any superfluous information.
- Minimize distractions by asking everyone to silence their cell phones and other noise-making devices.
- Avoid deviating from the written questions.
- Speak clearly so the witness and stenographer can understand.
Who should attend a deposition?
The recording is meant to be private and secure, so in most cases, the attorneys for both parties and the witness being interviewed are the only people who should be present.
Talty Court Reporters makes it easy to take depositions from anywhere in the country with our deluxe conference rooms and remote recording services. To learn more about this process, or to schedule a deposition in San Jose, please contact us today.
Every attorney and witness wants to create a flawless deposition to take with them to court. For this to happen, you need an experienced, reliable court reporter to produce a written record of the testimony. Of course, certified stenographers have years of experience and dozens or even hundreds of depositions under their belt.
If you’re still gaining ground as a new attorney, or you’re a witness who has never been deposed before, you could benefit from hearing a knowledgeable court reporter’s advice. Here’s how to help improve your next deposition.
Tips for Attorneys
You undoubtedly understand the power of an accurate deposition when making your case before a judge and jury. This is why you wouldn’t even think of holding a deposition without a certified court reporter present. Make their job easier with these tips:
- Provide case information in advance. When your court reporter has all the names and technical terminology pertaining to the case, you can expect fewer interruptions and requests for clarification.
- Plan time for markings. After presenting the exhibits, leave a few minutes for the court reporter to transcribe and mark them accordingly.
- Try never to talk over the witness. A clear record requires that only one person speaks at a time. Frequently interrupting the witness can result in a garbled transcript.
- Seat the court reporter close to the witness. This helps ensure the reporter can hear the witness speak clearly without the need to repeatedly ask for clarification.
- Verbally declare when you want to speak on and off the record. Being clear about this ensures the court reporter is prepared to pause and resume transcribing at the proper times.
Tips for Witnesses
Providing your testimony of an event can be stressful. It involves public speaking and keeping a clear head while responding to rapid-fire questions. Here are some tips to help witnesses be effective deponents so their testimony is helpful to the case:
- Listen attentively to the questions and strive to deliver simple, concise answers. Provide explanations if prompted.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, simply state, “I don’t know.”
- If you don’t understand, request that the attorney rephrase the question.
- Don’t interrupt. Only provide your answer once the questioner has finished speaking.
- Answer “Yes,” “No,” or “I don’t know.” The court recorder can’t document head shakes, nods, or shrugs.
- Request a document review for any questions you can’t recall.
- Don’t allow the opposing party to force you into selecting answers you’re not entirely sure of.
- Remain calm and composed.
- Always provide truthful answers.
Talty Court Reporters provides court reporting services in San Jose. Not only do we accurately document depositions, but we also provide a wide range of other court recording-related services, including video conferencing, audio transcription, conference facilities, interpreter scheduling, and much more. To discover all the benefits of working with Talty, please schedule a deposition today.
A traditional deposition is a typed transcription of a witness’s testimony. A court reporter transcribes the words verbatim in shorthand on a stenography machine, which translates the words into longhand. This becomes a certified written record for the court.
Did you know it’s possible to enhance a deposition with video conferencing? Here are the benefits of filming your upcoming depositions.
Reduce Travel Time and Expense with Remote Depositions
Teleconferencing equipment makes it possible to collect testimonies from witnesses located all over the world. This allows all parties involved to see and hear one another for a fraction of the cost and hassle required to travel to each location and host the deposition face-to-face, especially if there are multiple witnesses.
Review the Recording Again and Again
In the case of teleconferencing, the video feed is streamed live between participants. It is also recorded for later reference, and digital copies can even be made. This allows multiple people to watch the deposition as many times as they want.
Strengthen Your Legal Claim
While a paper transcript conveys a witness’s literal words, only a video recording has the power to demonstrate facial expressions, involuntary reactions, emotional responses, and irony or sarcasm. This meaningful information sets the scene and context of a case that is lost in written text. A powerful video may be enough to reduce or eliminate charges, influence a jury, or convince a judge to dismiss the case.
The best way to strengthen your claim is to hire a legal videographer. This ensures a high-definition recording with crystal-clear audio and video synced with the court reporter’s transcript.
Record with Minimal Equipment
Filming a deposition is not a complicated task. All you need is a quality camera and tripod, microphones, and lighting. For teleconferencing, you also need a secure and reliable internet connection. A legal videographer working in a conference facility provides everything you need, so you don’t need to invest in the equipment yourself.
View the Deposition on Multiple Devices
Modern technology allows video conferences to be viewed on numerous devices, including computers, laptops, tablets, and cell phones. This way, any involved party can clarify a statement the witness made by pulling up the video on whatever device is most convenient.
Ensure Privacy and Security
The digital nature of modern films could make some attorneys fear for the privacy and security of the witness’s testimony, especially when streamed over the web. Fortunately, today’s video conferencing offers the utmost privacy thanks to secure internet connections, file encryption, and private chat options. These measures ensure that only approved parties can view the recorded deposition.
At Talty Court Reporters, we always recommend filming depositions because of their ability to save attorneys time and money and preserve all the evidence in a case. Our legal video services in San Jose are just what you need to make your upcoming depositions a success. We even offer conference facilities where you can professionally record your footage. Discover all the benefits of working with Talty—schedule your deposition today.
Law school does a great job of preparing you for the courtroom, but many attorneys find themselves unprepared for what is sure to become a central aspect of their jobs—depositions. Depositions are important parts of case preparation, and they can often help a case stay out of the courtroom at all. That means that you have to be adept at the deposition process, even if law school didn’t give you all the tools you need. As you begin the process of depositions in San Jose , here are the facts you need to know.
You are responsible for hiring a court reporter.
When you go into the courtroom, a court reporter will be there to create a transcript of the testimony. For a deposition, you have to hire a court reporter yourself. Court reporters play an integral role in depositions for the same reason that they are important during trials—you will need a transcript of the deposition so that you can use it in your case preparation and so that there is a record of the testimony witnesses provided under oath. These transcripts may allow you to impeach testimony that witnesses give during trial if it conflicts with what they have said during a deposition.
Technology plays an important part in depositions.
Today, effective depositions rely on technology. During the course of a deposition, you may wish to create a legal video of the testimony or you may wish to conduct a remote deposition. You may also need digital access to transcripts and electronic versions of evidence. Court reporters can often offer these comprehensive deposition services, so be sure to ask about the technology different reporters use as you decide who to hire.
Court reporters can help with document and transcript storage.
When you hire a court reporter, discuss how you will be able to access deposition transcripts and other case-related documents. Often, court reporting firms provide digital repositories that are password-protected, so that you can work on your case from anywhere, anytime, without security-related concerns.
There are many things lawyers aren’t taught in law schools, and one of them is how to conduct legal depositions in unusual places around San Jose. Some of the strangest places lawyers have done legal depositions are hotel rooms, airports, prisons, and adult entertainment stores. These are obviously not ideal places to take down sworn testimony. Whenever possible, it’s best to have a court reporter meet you and the other parties at a private conference room. Even if you’ll be conducting a remote deposition, a private conference room is best because it eliminates distractions on your end, and it ensures you’ll have the right technology to conduct the deposition securely .
Court reporting agencies that offer conference room rentals also typically offer high-tech solutions to guarantee privacy and security. Due to the sensitive nature of legal cases, it isn’t advisable to conduct remote depositions with less secure connections. Sophisticated video conferencing platforms even allow private chat options, which let clients communicate with their attorneys confidentially.
Long before your client sits down near a court reporter , he or she needs to know exactly what to expect from a typical deposition held in San Jose. Asking and answering tough questions may be as natural to you as breathing, but for your client, it may be intimidating. Arguably, one of the most important benefits of thorough preparation is that it gives your client the confidence needed to effectively handle this stressful situation.
Explain the process of the deposition.
You should assume that your client is completely unfamiliar with the concept of legal depositions. Go over the basic facts, including the following:
- It does not take place in a courtroom.
- A court reporter will take down everything said on the record, verbatim.
- Testimony is given under oath.
- Giving testimony that contradicts later testimony at trial could be perjury.
Instruct your client to only give verbal answers—court reporters can’t record gestures. If your client doesn’t know something, he or she shouldn’t try to guess. Emphasize the importance of only giving as much information as was asked for. One-word answers are encouraged, if they answer the question.
Review documents and facts.
Although your client can answer “I don’t know,” if that’s the truth, it’s better if he or she knows the details of the facts of the case. Spend plenty of time going over any relevant documents and records. Being fully informed will help your client to confidently answer questions.
Help your client anticipate questions from opposing counsel.
It’s impossible to think of every single question opposing counsel will ask, but you probably have a fairly good idea of the direction of the questioning. Write down a list of every question you can think of, and put the toughest ones at the top. Go over these questions exhaustively until your client feels comfortable with them.
Give some last-minute tips.
You don’t want to overwhelm your client with information, but you may wish to remind him or her of some crucial tips just before the deposition. Remind your client to actively listen to every question, and not to answer the question before opposing counsel is done asking it. Let your client know that it’s okay to briefly pause—this gives you a chance to object if need be.
It’s possible for a witness’ answer to change between the time of the legal deposition and the trial. You can use the transcript made by the court reporter in San Jose during the deposition to impeach a witness during the trial. Watch this video to find out how one experienced trial lawyer uses cross-examination to build a case for perjury.
He reminds viewers that most jurors don’t know what a deposition is or what the role of the court reporter is. This is why it’s essential to use cross-examination to educate the jury. You can accomplish this by asking the witness questions like, “Do you recall giving your legal deposition?” and “Do you recall giving an oath to tell the truth under penalty of perjury, just like you did before you took the witness stand today?” These types of questions emphasize to the jury the significance of the changes in the witness’ testimony.
Depositions are the backbone of discovery, and it’s crucial to know the difference between proper and improper objections. Whether you’ll be conducting your first or your hundredth legal deposition in San Jose, take a few minutes to brush up on the basics of deposition objections. If you object improperly or too frequently, it may damage your own credibility and, more importantly, derail your client’s train of thought. Here’s a quick look at some proper objections.
Asked and Answered
Don’t allow opposing counsel to ask the same question twice. Some lawyers may ask repetitive questions without realizing it. In other cases, it’s a blatant attempt to get the witness to change the answer. Object to repetitive questions before your client has a chance to answer it and potentially change a few words in the answer.
Some lawyers persist in attempting to intimidate the deponent and opposing counsel by shouting, pointing fingers, and otherwise making a nuisance of themselves. If opposing counsel tries this with you or your deponent, stay calm and do not reciprocate. Instead, say to the court reporter, “Let the record reflect that Mr. Smith is yelling at my client.” For the record, you should clearly describe the type of harassing behavior, and that you will terminate the deposition unless it stops. Then, follow through if necessary.
Legal depositions are conducted to get the facts of the case on the record. Counsel should not ask a deponent to give a legal conclusion, especially if the deponent isn’t a lawyer. You can object to questions that ask for non-factual information.
Confidential, privileged relationships exist between patients and doctors, and clients and attorneys. Be wary of questions that ask the deponent to share information that was discussed in confidence. You can object to these questions based on the privileged relationship.
The mischaracterization of earlier testimony may be influential in a trial, and it confuses all involved parties as to the actual facts of the case. You can object based on opposing counsel’s mischaracterization of your client’s previous testimony.
Mistakes in a deposition may mean the difference between winning and losing at trial. If you have run into errors with one of your depositions in San Jose , then read on for tips on how to deal with this problem.
Address Them in Time
Deponents have 30 days to review the deposition transcript after being notified by the court reporter that it is available. Keep in mind that the deponent is not required to read over her testimony unless she or another party requests it.
Request Review on Record
During the deposition, ask the deponent to review the transcript once she is informed that it is available. If you choose to use deposition testimony against the witness, and she must admit that she reviewed the transcript and determined it to be correct, then making this request may benefit you at trial and give your argument more strength. Developing a standard time to request a review may make it easier for you to remember during each deposition.
Understand the Review Process
Within 30 days of being notified that the transcript is available, the witness should read and review the transcript, as well as create a list of any changes that she wishes to make. Also, she must sign a statement that explains the reasons for each of the changes. If the witness does not provide any reasons, then she will be bound to her original testimony. Also, the court will assess whether any changes requested serve a legitimate purpose. If the answers are changed, note that the court reporter will attach the signed list of changes to the transcript, and both the original and new answers will be included in the record that was generated during discovery.
Consider Not Requesting Review
On the other hand, if you noticed a mistake that the witness made and you would like to use this against her at trial, then you may not want to request that she review the transcript and submit a signed list of changes and reasons for them.
To get the most of a deposition , you need a clean transcript to refer to when it’s complete. Although your court reporter in San Jose is trained to maintain the utmost accuracy when preparing transcripts, there are many things you can do to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible. During your next deposition, keep these tips in mind as you ask whatever questions you have.
Every time you speak during a deposition, keep in mind that you are creating a written record as well. Use clearly worded questions that are phrased in a way that is easy to understand. Avoid adding superfluous words. If the witness asks you to repeat the question, do so yourself rather than asking the court reporter to read it back, so that a second record of the question is created. Allow witnesses to answer questions completely before you start addressing them again, so you don’t talk over each other. Consider making a video of the deposition as a backup, in case there are any questions about the written transcript.
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