First, before determining what an effective deposition looks like, it is important to understand just what a deposition is. In legal terms, as described on the online legal dictionary, a deposition is “The testimony of a party or witness in a civil or criminal proceeding taken before trial, usually at an attorney’s office.” The testimony is taken orally, often under oath, and recorded by a court recorder or tape recorder. When the deposition is finished, the participant will sign an affidavit stating the truth of the information given by the party being questioned by the attorneys asking questions. This information will be put in the form of a printed transcript. Attorneys for both parties will receive copies of the deposition.
As a deposition is designed to be a discovery tool, similar to the interrogatories which are written questions to be answered in writing, it becomes a valuable way to learn important details about the person being questioned in regards to his or her relationship with the case being adjudicated. Once a case is being mediated, or even more seriously, being heard by a judge there is little time to digest and incorporate details often brought to light in a thorough and effective deposition.
In Florida, depositions can be videotaped which will allow for observing body language and emotional reactions to questions. They can also be conducted over the phone, termed “telephonic depositions” as long as there is a court recorder present during the conversation. Florida, however, does not allow a witness to be sworn in over the phone unless they are a police officer. Still, another means of deposing a witness is by video conferencing. The technology of combining sight and sound makes for a deposition where all parties can see each other as well as hear what each is saying. This often makes very clear what the questions and answers are hoping to discover as well as allowing to actually see any documents, photos, etc. that are being talked about. Too, if a witness should die or disappear prior to needing to testify, have a memory lapse during testimony, or proof is needed a witness is lying, a video conference deposition can be most helpful.
So what will make a deposition effective? The answer is to learn as much as possible about the witness, especially what he or she knows about the case and his or her part in it. Every question asked should have an identified goal attached to it. The purpose of learning information should be to find out all that is possible that will help or hinder the case in question. Many questions can be aimed at learning how a witness will answer specific questions an attorney plans to ask in court. If it appears answers to certain questions may actually hurt the case, an attorney will then know it may be best not to ask those particular questions. Additionally, an attorney, once aware a witness has information that can damage his or her winning the case, can make plans as how to respond to this testimony.
In truth, an effective deposition can make all the difference as to how an attorney will use and/or respond to a witness’s testimony. And, in many cases, the information gained during an effective deposition can be said to have “won the case”.