Sunday, November 8, 2009

Practice Deposition Makes Perfect

I think I mentioned before how I have become a major slacker this semester. Seriously though, if law school was Candy Land, I would be Gloppy the Molasses Monster, just sitting on my butt in the back of the classroom covered in thick, sticky molasses. And...that made no sense. I am very sorry.

In my "trial" class we all had to sign up to conduct pretend depositions in the pretend case we've been working on all semester. Well, somehow, I managed to forget the day of my deposition until that very day. I looked up at the syllabus and realized, "crap, I'm deposing a witness in three hours!" So I quickly skimmed the chapter on depositions, prepared my opening- you know all those necessary intro questions such as "have you ever been deposed before" and all the instructions like "please answer the question even if your attorney objects- unless he tells you not to answer the question." One hour before class, I was totally ready. I knew all the things I would try to get out of the witness. I was ready to rock it!

When class started, I came to the front of the room for the exercise. Halfway through my intro, I realized I needed to have the court reporter (a random student who sits at the deposition desk and pretends to type in his lap- pretty funny!) administer the oath. So we do the oath and then I have to start ALL OVER.

Then I told the witness that she can only give VERBAL answers to my questions since non-verbal answers cannot be recorded by the court reporter. I asked if she understood. She replied by nodding her head. I was so awesomely nervous that I didn't even catch this until my professor pointed it out at the end of the dep. Yay for me!

We started to go into the details of what she witnessed the night in question. The witness (another student playing the part) was 78 years old. She was deaf, confused, and she didn't remember anything. This made for a pleasant experience.

"Did you notice anything particular about the man's demeanor?"
"What?"
"Did you notice anything particular about the man's demeanor that night?'
"What does demeanor mean?"
"How he acted."
"Oh"
"I'll rephrase my question for you. Did you notice anything particular about the way the man acted that night?"
"What?"
"Did you notice anything particular about the way the man acted the night of the shooting?"
"Oh, wait. What man are we talking about again?"
"The man that you saw enter the bar."
"Who did I see enter the bar?"
"That is what I am trying to find out. You told me just a minute ago that you saw a man enter the bar on the night of the shooting."
"Oh yes. I did. But I don't remember."
"You don't remember that you saw a man or you don't remember how he acted that night."
"I remember that I remembered seeing a man. But now I can't remember him."
-HUH?!-
"Are you currently taking any medication?"
"No."
"Have you consumed any alcohol in the past 24 hours that might affect your testimony today?"
"Oh honey, I don't drink alcohol. It gives me gas."

How do real attorneys 1) prevent themselves from punching the lights out of really frustrating witnesses, even when they ARE 78 years old and 2) keep a straight face when a witness discusses her flatulence problems?

4 comments:

Shake sense into me said...

I think the transcript would have to read [Laughter] after the gas comment.

Butterflyfish said...

Totally. Possibly followed by

[Break, off the record, attorney beats head against wall]

Proto Attorney said...

That's awesome. And definitely good prep for real life. At least you won't make the same mistakes in your first real deposition, and you'll expect the unexpected.

Oh, and we have the problem here where deponents fail to put in their teeth before giving testimony. Apparently teeth are very important in speech, something I never realized until working in personal injury.

Shelley said...

Priceless. Whoever was playing the witness must have been having a ball.

(IRL, the court reporter would have insisted on a verbal answer to the question!)