What is a Deposition?
A deposition is evidence given under oath and recorded for use in a courtroom at a later date. A deposition is usually given outside a courtroom under carefully defined circumstances that both parties in the legal proceeding agree to. Information gathered in a deposition is used by both litigants in preparation for trial, so the accuracy of the information is of great consequence.
There is a defined procedure for taking depositions under Rule 30 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Some states have further instructions for depositions, but all states follow the general federal rules for the proceeding. There are a number of guidelines covering all aspects of the deposition, including how various parties to the lawsuit arrive at the deposition and how the information is exchanged.
The Role of the Court Reporter During a Deposition
A court reporter uses a stenotype machine to record the proceedings. The court reporter also administers the oath or affirmation to the parties, much the same as in any other court proceeding before a trial judge or a jury. The court reporter is required to make a verbatim record of everything said in the deposition. Some court reporters also make an audio or video recording for extra security.
During the deposition, objections are permitted of any of the questions asked. Attorneys may object to questions asked using two types of objections:
- Asserting a privilege
- Objecting to the form of the question (frequently used to advise the witness to take care when answering the question)
Any other objections are usually dismissed from the deposition and are saved until the actual trial.
The Purpose of the Deposition
The idea behind the deposition is to give the legal parties involved with a particular court case a fair glance of the evidence that will come up in the trial. This is to facilitate equality in the court trial so that there are no surprises and that both sides have a fair shot at probing all of the evidence.
This also helps the witnesses, as most depositions take place while the recollections of the legal incident are still fresh. As many trials are several months or even years after the incident, a deposition can help put certain comments on record and can help institute legal testimony that can be used in the trial. Testimony given in the deposition has as much legal might as testimony given in a trial, so the role of the court reporter to take precise testimony is of critical consequence.