Before a case goes to trial, the parties undergo discovery, which is the process by which relevant information is exchanged. Depositions are just one part of the discovery process. A legal deposition in San Jose is essentially a question-and-answer session. Witnesses will answer questions to establish a record of what they know about the case. A court reporter will use a stenotype machine to create an official transcript of the proceeding.
Depositions are not conducted in a courtroom. In most cases, witnesses are deposed in attorneys’ offices. There are some exceptions, such as when a witness is critically ill and cannot travel even short distances. In these cases, the witness may be deposed in a hospital or at the home. In addition to the witness, any other parties involved with the case may attend the deposition. However, the judge is usually not in attendance unless it is expected that he or she may need to issue rulings during the deposition.
Before a witness is deposed, the attorney will prepare him or her by explaining what to expect. The attorney will likely conduct a mock deposition, in which he or she will ask the witness questions that are pertinent to the case and the witness will develop responses. Attorneys can also provide valuable advice on handling questions. For example, witnesses may be instructed to only answer the questions that are asked and to avoid volunteering information. Witnesses should try to avoid speaking too quickly. Although the court reporter can rapidly record information, speaking at a moderate pace and pausing occasionally allows the witness to give careful consideration to the question. Witnesses should also be aware that they should not speculate about answers. If they are truthful, answers such as “I don’t know,” or “I can’t remember,” are acceptable.
When the deposition begins, the witness is reminded of certain rules. For example, the witness should understand that he or she is under oath and that all questions must be answered truthfully. The witness should only provide verbal answers, as the court reporter cannot record gestures. After the deposition, the witness will be able to review his or her answers. Although the witness can make corrections, the attorney can discuss the fact that the answers were changed during the subsequent court appearances.