3 reasons to videotape a deposition

Many times, attorneys attempt to keep the costs of litigation low, and in doing so, they will skip out on important tasks.  One of these important tasks is the need to videotape every deposition taken.  Many experts have evolved on the videotaping of depositions to the point where it seems to be common knowledge now that if you’re unwilling to go to the expense of videotaping a person’s deposition, that person’s deposition must not be critical enough to take.

You should initially check the rules in your jurisdiction to determine whether engaging a certified videographer is necessary.  Many attorneys have used in-house technology staff, or even their own mobile phones, to videotape depositions where allowed.  Why is it necessary to videotape a deposition?  Let us count the ways:

  1. You must give the jury a sense of the tone used in deposition

How many of your reading this have ever read a deposition transcript aloud at a jury trial?  The rules don’t really allow for emphasis to be made, and objections can be raised if an attorney or transcript-reader uses an inflection as an attempt to emphasize certain words.  And most of the time, jurors are snoozing during what can be critical deposition testimony.

Videotaping a deposition allows a jury to see what the person is like, their tone, any nervous habits, moments of pause, idiosyncrasies of the witness, and facial expressions.  All of these go directly to the witness’s credibility.  This is one reason it is imperative to videotape all depositions.

  1. It provides many avenues for playback at mediation and pre-trial

In addition, videotaping a deposition allows for critical testimony of the video footage to be cropped and played in segments at mediation or pre-trial.  This can dramatically affect the value of the case at mediation, and it can also help in assisting the court in determining legal issues at pre-trial.  Playing short clips of footage from depositions can be extremely effective in making points throughout litigation.

  1. It shows preparation

Lastly, videotaping a deposition provides a heightened level of effort on your part, and it shows to the client, the defense, the court, the mediator, and particularly the claims adjuster that you are methodically preparing to put your best foot forward at trial.  This can be very effective when evaluating the claim.

Videotaping depositions has now become one of the essential elements to effectively and competently present a case at trial.  When selecting an attorney, you should consider hiring a veteran trial lawyer, like a personal injury lawyer Little Rock AR relies on, who has experience in presenting a case to juries.

 

Thanks to Steve Harrelson and our friends and co-contributors from Harrelson Law Firm, P.A. for their added insight into videotaped depositions.

 

Depositions 101: The Basics and Ground Rules

If you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit you may be required have your deposition taken, as a personal injury lawyer Newport Beach CA trusts can explain. A deposition is an interview between yourself and a lawyer from the opposing side. During a deposition, the lawyer has the opportunity obtain your testimony through a series of questions that he or she has created. These questions will often be based around the injury or incident but may highlight other aspects if deemed as relevant by the interviewing attorney.

A deposition can be a stressful experience if you have never been in one because it may feel as though you are under scrutiny by the opposing attorney.  The majority of the deposition will consist of the opposing lawyer asking you a single question at a time. Your job as a deponent (one who is being deposed) is to answer these questions to the best of your ability, even if you may not remember everything.

Another major component of a deposition is the fact that a court reporter (also known as a stenographer) will be transcribing everything that is said “on the record” during the deposition. Afterwards, the court reporter will provide a deposition transcript that reads like a script. Some depositions may also be video or audio recorded and this can increase the anxiety.

For the average person, the legalese and rules of a deposition can make an already stressful situation even more unnerving. However, by understanding the basic ground rules of a deposition beforehand, you can ensure a smoother and less stressful experience.

  1. Each Question Must Receive an Audible Answer

Each question must receive a verbal answer because the court reporter must be able to hear your response in order to transcribe it to the deposition transcript. If you are nodding your head, using gestures, or otherwise answering questions without a verbal answer, the interviewing attorney will tell you that you must provide an audible answer. This also means that an answer such as “Uh huh” does not satisfy as an audible answer. You may use gestures and nod your head, but remember to couple this with a verbal response. 

  1. One Person May Speak at a Time

Only one person may speak at a time during a deposition. Not only is it impolite to interrupt but it causes confusion during a deposition. The court reporter must be able to clearly understand who is speaking in order to correctly transcribe what is being said. Imagine how confusing a script would read if everyone was constantly interrupting each other and speaking at the same time! Therefore, make sure you do not interrupt anyone while they are speaking or asking a question during the deposition.

  1. Do Not Answer a Question Until it is Completely Asked

Be patient and wait for the attorney to ask their entire question before you answer it.  You do not always know where a question is going and what it will ask you to either confirm or admit.  Although it may be a natural habit to answer a question as soon as you know the answer to it – try to refrain.  You never know how much more of the question remains to be spoken. Prematurely answering a question may result in having to backtrack and change your answer, which will stall the deposition.

  1. Do Not Guess – But You Can Estimate

If you use the word “guess” when answering a question during your deposition, the interviewing attorney will request for you to provide more information 100% of the time.  The most important difference between a guess and estimate is the degree to which you are sure you are correct. An estimate is a rough approximation whereas a guess is often simply a shot in the dark.

A guess is an answer that is without enough information to be sure if it is correct or not. You cannot be held accountable to an answer of which you aren’t sure of how incorrect or correct you are because it wouldn’t make sense to hold someone to an answer they admittedly aren’t sure about.

An estimated answer is more reliable than a guessed answer because estimating requires you to roughly calculate or judge the value of something. Estimating will require you to provide at least some sort of thoughtful information.

Memories will fade over time. However, the attorney asking you questions will tell you that they are entitled to your best estimate with regard to dates, times, and speeds. Therefore, if you don’t know an answer then do not attempt to guess. Either say that you do not know, or attempt to provide an estimation of what you think the correct answer would be.

Bruno Nalu LawThanks to our friends and contributors from Bruno Nalu for their insight into depositions and personal injury practice.

You Received a Deposition Subpoena –  Now What? | Capital Reporting Company

If you are involved in a civil lawsuit as a witness, plaintiff or defendant, there is a likely chance that you will receive what is known as a “deposition subpoena” in the mail or in person. A deposition subpoena is an official document approved by your state’s judicial counsel. The purpose of a deposition subpoena is to notify you that you are to have your deposition taken, and thus be “deposed”.

A subpoena is a legal document that “orders” someone to appear either at a court, or in this case, a deposition. A deposition is essentially an interview between the opposing side’s lawyer and yourself. Effectively reading the deposition subpoena is the first step in preparing for your deposition.

Reading the Subpoena

Legal documents are often difficult for the untrained eye to read, but it is possible with a little patience. Take a few moments to carefully read what is written on the subpoena, there can be a lot of information crammed into a small space and your eyes may be tempted to jump around on the page. The easiest way to effectively read a deposition subpoena (or any legal document) is to begin in the top left corner and work your way down, reading left to right, line by line.

Who Will Conduct the Deposition

Various states use different types of deposition subpoena forms but all will have the name of the court from which it was issued. More importantly, the subpoena form will include the lawyer’s office which set your deposition and thus will be conducting the deposition (asking you the questions).

Who to Contact for Questions

If you have any questions about the deposition but do not have a lawyer of your own, like a personal injury lawyer Newport Beach CA trusts, you may contact the attorney’s office listed on the subpoena, though remember that this will be attorneys for the OPPOSING side. If you already have a lawyer of your own (which you most likely will) contact them with regard to any questions or rescheduling needs.  Don’t wait until the last day to do this unless it is truly an emergency.  Remember that rescheduling is always better than simply not showing up. Completely not showing up to your deposition without notifying anyone beforehand will reflect poorly on your character and can result in legal ramifications.

Date, Time and Location

On your deposition subpoena, you also will find the date, time, and location of your deposition. Your deposition will be scheduled at least 2 weeks in advance. This allows for you make arrangements or to reschedule if need be. The attorney’s office which set your deposition should allow you to reschedule your deposition for a convenient date, time and location that will work for you. Also, you may be entitled to accommodation for transportation to and from the deposition. If this is needed, contact either your attorney or if you do not have an attorney, contact the attorney which set the deposition and is listed on your subpoena.

Documents to Bring

Some deposition subpoenas will contain wording that states you are required to bring documents to your deposition. These may be anything from medical records, video recordings, to pictures and diagrams that have to do with your case. The lawyers conducting your deposition are entitled to take copies of whatever documents you refer to during your deposition. However, be mindful of any document you bring to your deposition, whether it is being requested or not. Any document that you bring to your deposition (including photos, text messages, audio/video recordings) and that you use during your deposition can and will be copied by the lawyers conducting your deposition.

 

Bruno Nalu LawThanks to our friends and contributors from Bruno Nalu for their insight into depositions and subpoenas.

Should You Hire an Attorney for a Deposition? | Capital Reporting Company

While television shows, articles and news segments may focus on the trial, jury and judge in a legal case or proceeding, in reality there are a host of other proceedings, documents and filings that make up the bulk of any potential litigation.  One of the most important pre-trial events is the deposition of participants, witnesses or experts that will ultimately testify in the case.

A deposition is pre-trial testimony, taken under oath, typically at an attorney’s office or neutral conference room space.  The deposition can help flush out the facts of the case and the testimony given at a deposition will often be used again at trial.  Testimony given in a deposition also can commit you to a position later on at trial.  Sometimes, statements made during a deposition can help prompt settlement discussions.  This is especially true when deposition testimony is especially harmful or helpful to one side of the lawsuit.

While not an actual trial, depositions are legal proceedings and participants often ask whether they are in need of legal representation.  Here we break down some of the common reasons you may want to consider hiring a lawyer, like a personal injury lawyer Brookhaven GA trusts, to represent you for your deposition testimony.

Participant in Legal Proceeding or Lawsuit

If you’re involved in a legal claim or lawsuit, either as plaintiff or defendant, a deposition will often be a necessary part of the pre-trial discovery process.  While you are entitled to represent yourself in court, litigants should carefully consider whether they’d benefit from having a lawyer representing their interests at all stages of trial.  Deposition testimony can and often is used at trial and inconsistencies in statements due to misunderstood questions, nervousness or lack of preparation, can have a negative impact on your outcome.

Preparation for Trial

Deposition testimony will occur in a similar manner as testimony being provided on the stand to a judge or jury.  Opposing counsel typically has much more leeway during a deposition regarding what they can and cannot ask.  Having an attorney by your side to help walk you through questions and advise you on which questions you should not answer or are not obligated to answer can help hone your statements which will eventually be given at trial.  If you are a party to a lawsuit, make sure your lawyer prepares you for your deposition.

Deposition Testimony as a Witness

Another instance where you may consider hiring a lawyer to represent your interests is if you’ve been called to provide deposition testimony as a witness.  Even if you aren’t directly involved in the underlying litigation, depositions potentially have legal ramifications that could affect you, your employer or a friend or family member.  At a deposition, you will be required to testify under oath and any factual misstatements could be held against you at a later date.  In addition, many witnesses at depositions will feel more confident with their own lawyer by their side when being asked questions by attorneys representing the other parties to the matter.

Employer May Provide Legal Counsel

If you’ve been called to give testimony at a deposition as a witness as part of your employment, you may be able to request your employer pay the bills for your own, separate, legal representation.  In many cases it is in your employer’s best interest to have you provide factual, relevant deposition testimony possible and they will reimburse you or directly pay for the legal costs associated with hiring an attorney.

What you discuss with your lawyer is privileged and protected by what is called the “attorney-client privilege”.  Another lawyer cannot ask you what you and your lawyer talked about in your preparation.

Butler Tobin LawThanks to our friends and contributors from Butler Tobin for their insight into hiring an attorney for a deposition.

 

3 Tips on Taking Depositions in a Motorcycle Accident Case | Capital Reporting Company

When a personal injury happens, and a lawyer files a case, a deposition may be conducted. This involves a recorded session that can be legally binding, and if the wrong things are said it is easy to have your case challenged by the defending party., Taken by a court reporter, a deposition involves a legal representative in a civil tort lawsuit. The intention is to reveal information that might not be available within an official accident report. In many ways, a deposition is like a open hunting field where things could go in any direction. The following are a few things you should do during a deposition:

  1. Be prepared for questioning

Motorcycle drivers are typically considered a second class person on a roadway. When the legal issue involves a personal injury from a motorcycle accident, there are often assumptions that the biker acted dangerously and therefore is at fault. You should be ready for intrusive, detailed questions from a defending lawyer. Even if there is an obvious act of negligence on another party’s behalf, you may be “accused” of doing wrong. It will be a good idea to remain composed and in a basic frame of mind.

  1. Do Not Answer What is Not Asked

As you are questioned, your answered should be direct and simple. Do not offer any extra information because this is exactly what the defending lawyer is wanting. The purpose of these questions is to cast doubt on your claim of the incident and the severity of the injuries or contribution to the accident. Comparative negligence is a factor of most personal injury claims. It is probable that the lawyer will focus on a percentage of your own negligence – even if it does not exist. Depending on the state of occurrence, any contribution to the accident could eliminate the possibility of having a claim. In other states a modified comparative negligence model of around 50% may be required to make a claim invalid.

  1. Avoid Admitting Fault in the Accident

During your deposition, it will be in your best interest to avoid taking fault for your injuries. This can impact the amount of compensation available. Even if there is comparative negligence, or you are partially at fault, your answers should be minimal. Anything can be used as bargaining leverage in your settlement. The more you are found to be at fault, the less you will receive. The settlement will be discounted based upon the percentage of fault you are held at. If you are found to be 100% at fault, damages will not be available. That being said even if you are largely at fault, there is a good chance of receiving something when you have certain types of insurance. Ultimately fault is a crucial element in any claim regardless of the state or jurisdiction.

Remember that a deposition could be a precursor to a trial, particularly when a defending lawyer feels the claim can be dismissed. As a result, you may take the case to trial if large amounts of insurance coverage are available and gross negligence and punitive damages are a factor.

It should be clear that there is a need for an experienced lawyer, like a motorcycle accident lawyer Las Vegas NV relies on, especially during a deposition. He or she can ensure your rights are protected and give you the necessary preparations so you make the best decisions possible. As a rule of thumb, one should be well prepared when being deposed.

Nadia Von MagdenkoThanks to our friends and contributors from Nadia von Magdenko & Associates for their insight into motorcycle and personal injury practice.

3 Reasons To Use Video Depositions

Video depositions can be invaluable for legal professionals and their clients. The increased capabilities of video technology has made it even easier for lawyers to access enhanced deposition resources and to use video depositions in their cases. There are several reasons why lawyers across the country have begun relying heavily on this technology over the years, but here are just a few of the more common reasons:

  1. Initial witness testimonies can be documented effectively for later assessment.

This may be valuable if a witness tries to change his or her testimony on the stand. A personal injury lawyer Phoenix AZ relies on may reference the witness’ initial statements from his or her video deposition if there are any discrepancies in details. This may also help to determine if the individual will be a strong witness to place in front of a judge or jury.

  1. Witnesses can provide valuable testimonies regardless of where they are located.

Some cases are weakened because key witnesses cannot attend a deposition in person — whether it’s because of medical condition, a family emergency, or simply being out of town for an extended period of time. A dependable court reporting service may have numerous locations across the country, and sometimes even internationally. These services have the technical equipment required to record and share sensitive information that a witness might provide in a deposition. The witness doesn’t even have to be in the same city as the legal firm handling the case.

  1. Video depositions display body language, which may be very important when determining the authenticity of a witness’ testimony.

Small clues in a witness’ body language can provide a lot of information regarding his or her authenticity — sometimes more so than anything else he or she might say. Written depositions may be very valuable for straightforward testimonies, but if there is any reason to doubt that a witness might not be entirely forthcoming, a video deposition could be even better. These depositions may be recorded in a secure space and reviewed at a later time by psychologists or professionals who may assess the person’s body language. If the matter goes to court, such a deposition may help to cast doubt on a story in front of a judge or jury.

Video Depositions: A Growing Trend 

These three benefits are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the usefulness of recorded depositions. Visual presentations of witnesses, victims, and suspects can be a very powerful tool inside and outside the courtroom. Whether the goal is to establish the validity of a car accident claim or to investigate a serious criminal offense, you might just be surprised by how valuable a video deposition service can be.

Thanks to our authors at Lorona Mead for their insight into Personal Injury Law.

Depositions 101: What you need to know

As every experienced trial auto accident lawyer New York, NY knows, the deposition a very important discovery device in the litigation process of a personal injury matter. A deposition can single handedly determine the outcome of a trial or the ultimate settlement value of a case. The attorney must not only be aware of deposition strategy and tactics, but must also have a full understanding of the rules governing depositions. The client must be adequately prepared as well, both mentally and substantively. In this article I will outline some basic rules and suggestions for getting the most out of your depositions in a personal injury case, for both the attorney and the client.
The Client
I have found that when preparing the client, the most important goal should be to alleviate as much of their anxiety as possible. Meet with the client well in advance of the deposition day and set aside time immediately prior to the deposition to review and answer any of the client’s last minute questions. Explain to the client exactly what will take place and who will be there. If the deposition will take place in your office, prepare the client in the conference room where the deposition will take place and seat them in the seat they will be sitting. Make sure they understand and can repeat the rules below.
1)     Don’t try to answer a question that:
a.     you don’t know the answer to;
b.     you don’t remember (the answer) or
c.     you don’t understand (ask the questioner to rephrase);
2) Only answer the question that is asked;
3) Take your time and proceed at your own pace;
4) Don’t guess or speculate;
5) Be Honest;
6) Dress appropriately and comfortably. The opposing attorney will be evaluating your appearance as well as your demeanor.
Do not underestimate the importance of putting in the time to properly and thoroughly prepare your client for the deposition. Remember, in most cases this will be their first deposition. Use example questions to get them used to answering consistent with the rules you have given them. You must get to know your client. Are they overly “chatty?” Do they have difficulty articulating or recalling facts? Soft spoken or out spoken? Does he or she have a short temper or tend to be impatient? Stress to the client not to think about the reason for the question, but just to think about the answerto the question. Also, remind the client that the deposition should not be a hostile or adversarial event. It is an opportunity for the other side to learn more about the claims the client has made and that we will have the same opportunity to ask their witnesses probing questions as well.
The Attorney
To get the most out of the deposition and put your client’s case in the best position possible, the lawyer must know two things: the rules and the case. First, the rules. Each state has rules governing the conduct of the deposition as do the federal courts. The lawyer must be familiar with these rules and be confident in citing them during the deposition if necessary. In New York, for example, CPLR 3115 provides that all objections, other than as to the form of the question, are preserved for trial, so there is no need for the attorney object to most questions at the deposition. This rule is generally incorporated into the “usual stipulations” which the parties enter in to prior to the deposition. However, the lawyer should know that proper objections under CPLR 3115(b) include:
1.     Ambiguous questions
2.     Argumentative questions
3.     Questions which assume facts
4.     The mischaracterization of prior testimony
5.     Compound questions
6.     Harassing or vexatious questions
7.     Questions which have been asked and answered
Can an attorney direct the witness NOT to answer a question? Generally speaking, the answer is yes. It is permitted in four instances when: asserting an attorney-client privilege; asserting a physician-client privilege; asserting the Fifth Amendment privilege; or when a question is palpably irrelevant or unduly burdensome. These are but some of the deposition rules that the lawyer must know and be comfortable citing during a deposition.
Second, the lawyer must know the facts of the case cold. That means recognizing the issues in the case, whether they be factual or legal. This will not only help the lawyer prepare the client, but will also aid in the overall organization of the deposition, guide decisions regarding exhibits as well as formulating lines of questioning. You must know all prior statements made by all parties and non-parties. You must know the medical records and treatment history of your client. You must know the “good” and the “bad” facts of your case. Remember that the bad will not disappear if you simply ignore it. Is there a notation of alcohol on client’s breath in the emergency room record or crossing against the light in the police report? These issues must be attacked head on and honestly. What are the legal elements of our claim that must be met for us to be successful? What additional evidence do we need to prove them?
The deposition can make or break your case. Following some simple rules, and thinking through your theme of the case, can go a long way to making the deposition go smoothly for the client and for the case.

Thank to our friends and contributors from Okun, Oddo, and Babat P.C. for their insight into depositions.

I’m about to have my deposition taken. What should I know?

Steve Harrelson, a car accident lawyer Little Rock AR trusts, provides each of his clients with a preparatory brochure and session in getting ready for a Plaintiff’s deposition, and here are some valuable excerpts from that session.  First, you should know that you will be asked about the preparation itself, as if it’s being insinuated that your lawyer is instructing or coaching you how to answer questions on your case.

First, the most important thing to do in a deposition is listen.  Listen to the question be asked.  Don’t anticipate, don’t assume, and don’t just start answering what you thought you were going to be asked.  Consider each question being posed to you, answer that question, and stop.  It’s that simple.  Don’t offer color commentary to the questions – simply answer them and wait for the next question.  Don’t invite tangential lines of questions or allowing the other lawyer to carry you down some rabbit hole by offering more information than what is being sought.

Deposition Prep: 

Second, allow the other lawyer to ask you the question.  While listening to the question being asked, take some time to consider the question.  This will ensure that you and the other lawyer don’t step on each other or talk over one another.  The deposition is being reported by a court reporter, and it’s impossible for him or her to take down what is being said if two people are speaking at the same time.  Allow the other lawyer to finish his or her question before you answer it.

Audible responses: 

Speaking of the court reporter, he or she cannot properly record a shaking or nodding of the head, so it’s important to audibly voice your responses.  If you’re pointing at something while responding, remember that body language is not recorded, and if the transcript of your deposition is read aloud to the jury, they won’t get the entire picture if you were pointing during your response or referring to something in the room or on the table.  Additionally, uh-huhs and huh-uhs can be confusing when transcribed, so it’s important to audibly voice yes or no to straightforward questions (and going back to rule number one, if it’s a yes or no question, answer that way and stop).

Confusing Questions: 

If you do not perfectly understand the question being asked, or if the question can be interpreted in more than one way, ask the other lawyer to rephrase the question or ask it again.  The last thing you want to be faced with is trying to explain to a jury that you answered wrong in your deposition because you didn’t understand what was being asked.

It’s important to go over every single scenario of the basis of the lawsuit over and over in your head to be able to recall all facts.  Once you provide an answer in deposition, it is very difficult to change it or to give a different answer at trial without facing a serious (and potentially fatal) cross examination.

For these reasons, it is imperative to hire a veteran litigator and experienced trial lawyer who has been involved in representing victims of negligence for years.


Thanks to Steve Harrelson and our friends and co-contributors from Harrelson Law Firm, P.A. for their added insight into the discovery process in motor vehicle accidents.

3 Key Business Relationships for an Attorney to Build

Building Relationships

As Roseville CA estate planning attorneys, the relationships we build with clients can be pivotal to our success. However, there are many other professional bonds we must foster to conduct business successfully.

Below are three business relationships we should all consider strengthening to excel in our practices.

Couriers

Trusting an experienced courier service to pick up, deliver, or ship important documents means we need to identify a trustworthy courier or courier service, and build a good working relationship with them. If a certified copy needs to be in our hands by 4:59 p.m. during Friday rush hour in a thunderstorm, we’re not going to ask just anyone to do it.

Attributes of a Great Courier

  • Reliable tracking service offered
  • Cooperative with requests
  • Responsive and timely
  • Efficient
  • Insured

Couriers are used to move our pertinent, time sensitive deliveries fast. Being particular when choosing a service to build your relationship with helps your firm to be polished and qualified, and in the long run, helps build clientele.

Paralegals

Whether it’s maintaining organized files for an upcoming trial, drafting documents, or doing courthouse research, we put a great deal of trust in our paralegals. Thus, this professional relationship choice is one where we cannot afford to settle on the mediocre. It is imperative that we have a positive business relationship with our paralegals, and that they too add to our team.

The American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. reinforces this high level of integrity and professionalism in their Code of Ethics for paralegals.

What Makes a Terrific Paralegal

  • Dedication to completing challenging tasks
  • Attention to detail
  • Strong communication and writing skills
  • Positive demeanor
  • High standard of ethics

Even the toughest litigator will struggle without the support of a meticulous paralegal at their side. This person often represents us in the office, at the courthouse, and with clients. Choose this individual wisely, and work well with them.

Court Reporters

Practicing law, we know the value of getting accurate transcripts of proceedings. While we as attorneys create the record, a stellar court reporter preserves that record and takes it down verbatim to produce a readable transcript. Court reporting requires a great deal of skill and experience.

Identifying a Strong Court Reporter

  • Produces a complete record
  • Excellent command of the English language
  • Meets tight turnaround deadlines
  • Punctual
  • Professional appearance

A top-notch court reporter may also be able to provide realtime services, a feature through which testimony scrolls in a live feed on participant’s laptops or tablets. Many attorneys, and judges too, find this very helpful in proceedings.

An excellent reporter can be an extension of your firm, helping you to build your cases efficiently and accurately.

As busy as we are, a friendly attitude goes a long way in a professional environment. Remember, these are the people we work with and put our trust in daily. Surrounding ourselves professionally with the right people guarantees our practices will grow and thrive.


Thanks to our friends and contributors from Meyer & Yee, LLP for their insight into important business relationships.

Celebrity Video Depositions: Respect for the System?

Depositions are a key part of the discovery process in civil lawsuits and generally make the headlines in high profile cases of celebrity legal news. Most of us have a sense of what a deposition is. After all, we’ve seen them on TV and in films. In fact, in the Facebook movie, the Social Network, depositions get a big chunk of screen time. My favorite deposition scene is when Jessie Eisenberg, who plays Mark Zuckerberg, mocks the questioning attorney by checking her simple math and then sarcastically advising her that she is correct.

So, first, what is the discovery process of a lawsuit? Discovery is basically the investigative part of a case after a complaint and answer to that complaint is filed. It is when both sides get to ask questions in writing (Interrogatories), request documents (Document Requests) and seek admissions (Request for Admissions). Depositions take place during discovery and are the oral, generally in person, questioning of witnesses. Oftentimes those question-asking sessions are videotaped. Sometimes lawyers seek to have those tapes protected from public view and prevent them from being released, but not always. And, also, as you can imagine, sometimes even when there is a protective order in place someone, whether at the law firm or the court reporting company, leaks them. But, this post is not going to address leaks and who is legally responsible for them or who can/should be punished for them. What we are talking about are the ones that the public has seen—whether properly or improperly released into the media. And, boy, the ones highlighted below are not like any deposition I have been part of!

1. Justin Bieber: Clearly Bieber was not comfortable in the deposition setting, he was fidgeting, making odd facial expressions and swiveling his chair non-stop. His entire demeanor was one of combativeness and immaturity so if his goal was to come off as if he didn’t care or was not bothered about the situation or the underlying lawsuit the result was the opposite. His lawyers should have prepped him better (or maybe they did but he ignored their advice) then maybe he would not have come off looking like such a little brat. Not that there is much empathy for the plaintiffs—a paparazzo claiming Bieber’s bodyguards assaulted him and stole his camera equipment in June 2013.

2. Lil Wayne: I think Bieber may have watched the video of Lil Wayne’s 2012 deposition before Bieber sat for his own 2014 deposition but believe it or not Bieber actually came across looking worse than Lil Wayne did. Yes, Lil Wayne had a hoodie pulled up over his head, appeared to sleep on his folded arms for a bit, and also threatened the questioning attorney by saying “In the real world, that guy right there [referring to a third party present at the deposition], he can’t save you in the real world, just so you know.” But, in parts of the deposition Lil Wayne is very lucid, clear and repeats pretty lengthy questions back to the attorney. And though he did make the obtaining of information very, very challenging, he wasn’t as impetuous and immature as Bieber. A small shout out of congratulations is due to Pete Ross, the lawyer conducting the deposition for maintaining his cool throughout. Not sure how many other lawyers, even very experienced ones, would have sat so calmly through Lil Wayne’s antics.

3. Tupac Shakur: On the other end of the spectrum is Tupac Shakur’s video deposition in connection with a 1992 lawsuit filed by the wife of a deceased state trooper who claims Tupac’s music caused her husband’s death by inciting violence against police. Throughout the deposition, Tupac is mild mannered, respectful, and calm. Though it is worth noting that at the time of the deposition Tupac was incarcerated for a sexual assault conviction so though the attorney questioning Tupac suggested that Tupac’s answers made him seem like a choir boy, if relevant and deemed admissible by the judge in the case underlying the deposition, then clearly that choir boy image would be quickly erased and neither Tupac’s demeanor or answers in that video deposition would affect that too much—a conviction, a finding of fault beyond a reasonable doubt is pretty convincing information.

If you have the time, watch these depositions or at least the highlights of them and decide for yourself: Disrespectful celebrities, game players or individual seeking to protect their rights?


Thanks to our friend and contributor, Jill Stanley of Proof with Jill Stanley, for her insight into celebrity video depositions.