Depositions and How Do They Work?
In California courts, depositions consist of the two parties taking statements, under oath, of other witnesses or even members of the opposing party. As defined by the Code of Civil Procedure section 2025.010, “the person deposed may be a natural person, an organization such as a public or private corporation, a partnership, an association, or a governmental agency.” While other parties and witnesses can be deposed, a party may also choose to take its own deposition. Depositions can consist of written or oral testimony. In order to summon a party for the deposition, the deposing party must write a Notice of Taking of Deposition. However, if the witness being deposed is not involved with one of the parties, specific subpoenas must be used to compel a witness to come and answer questions.
The party asking the questions, or the deposing party, will specifically inquire about the deponent’s knowledge of an event or incident that has occurred. Usually, only the necessary members of the parties and their legal counsel attend depositions; however, unless prohibited by the court, other individuals can also be in attendance. Beyond the concerned individuals and their lawyers, the other individuals in the room consists of the examiner, the court reporter, a videographer, and if necessary, an interpreter.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Depositions have many advantages. First, given that testimony is under oath and recorded, it allows for parties to lock in testimony of the opposition or other witnesses. Furthermore, depositions are the only method allowed by California laws to discover and obtain testimony, documents, and other evidence from other individuals. Given that this done outside of the courtroom, lawyers can ask really narrow questions to the witness in order to receive the answers they are looking for. Moreover, while there is a general time limit for how long depositions can last, lawyers do not have a limit for how many questions they can ask the deponent.
There are various disadvantages based on whether you are the deposing party or the deponent. For everyone involved, depositions are expensive. There are costs for having a court reporter and videographer present for all of the depositions. Furthermore, given that lawyers can ask incredibly narrow and specific questions, witnesses may reveal too much or say things that hurt the case of the deponent party.