What Is a Deposition?

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A deposition is a process in which attorneys gather information for their case. The “deponent” is the witness that an attorney “takes” to build their case. These witnesses are the ones that an attorney “notices.” Attorneys gather these depositions for the benefit of their case; therefore, it’s usually the opposing counsel that calls the deponent in. The taking attorney sends their witness a notice of deposition. This summons asks the deponent to appear in a certain place at a certain time. Before the deposition commences, the taking attorney generally explains what a deposition is, and advises their witness to answer truthfully with verbal answers (rather than non verbal answers).

Who Is Present In a Deposition?

At bare minimum, 2 attorneys, a witness, a court reporter, and the deponent will be present. Sometimes the deponent is represented by another attorney, meaning a third attorney may be present.  In a case involving multiple parties, there can be several more attorneys in the room, representing various parties to the case. Some witnesses may require an interpreter, and some depositions are videotaped by a legal videographer. 

Who Swears In A Deponent? 

The court reporter almost always swears in the witness. The swearing in of the witness is noted in the final transcript prepared by the court reporter, and the testimony typically starts immediately after the oath has been administered.

Remembeer: A Deposition is Legally Binding

The deponent is under oath when giving a deposition, which makes it a legally binding, sworn testimony. Contradictions or changes to that testimony down the road can be used by attorneys to question a witness’ credibility, sometimes with dramatic effect. This doesn’t mean that the deponent has to answer every question. In fact, if a deponent has an attorney present, the attorney can instruct the deponent not to answer a question, or to plead the Fifth Amendment.

The Court Reporter Is One of The Most Important People In the Room

Attorneys often call the reporter the most important person in the room at a deposition–and they are not wrong! After all, it is the reporter who takes down the verbatim record. Afterwards, the court reporter provides a transcript of the proceeding to both parties. Both parties will then use this transcript to build their cases.

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