A deposition is a question-and-answer session where parties (or their attorneys) ask the deponent questions that are answered under oath. A deponent is also referred to sometimes as a witness. I will use these terms interchangeably in this article.
The same penalties apply for perjury as though the deponent was testifying in a court of law. Another way to think of a deposition is the taking of an oral statement–under oath–without a judge, jury, or spectators present.
Depositions are recorded by court reporters (also known as a stenographers) who transcribe the proceeding and create a deposition transcript – a booklet of sworn testimony that can be used for practically any litigation purpose, including motions (e.g., summary judgment) and trial. Video recording of depositions is becoming increasingly more common.
Depositions typically take place in a conference room setting. However, they can take place anywhere permitted by local laws and court rules. In recent times, technology has evolved to permit depositions to take place remotely by video conference as well.
Depositions can be particularly helpful when cross-examining a witness at trial for inconsistent or dishonest testimony. Good trial attorneys often use a deponent’s deposition transcript to demonstrate that the current trial testimony conflicts with prior deposition testimony.
Depositions can have a single purpose or multiple purposes:
- Lock in the witness’ testimony in case he/she changes his/her testimony at trial;
- Learn more about the case and the witness’ personal knowledge of the facts; and
- Preserve the witness’ testimony (in case he/she disappears, dies, or becomes incapacitated before trial).
To learn much more about strategies, preparation, testimony, how to take an effective and efficient deposition, and how to defend a deposition (including objections), check out Session 8: Depositions – of Justice Navigator: the Ultimate Video Litigation Tutorial. Click here to download an outline of that session.
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