A deposition is defined as when a witness provides recorded testimony after taking an oath to tell the truth. An example would be when your attorney in a personal injury action wishes to obtain evidence from an individual who witnessed the accident.
When in the U.S. or its territories, a deposition requires the presence of an authorized officer capable of administering an oath based on applicable law, or by a court appointee who is in the process of an action to be authorized to do so. Further, an officer is a court-appointed individual based on information outlined in Rules 28 or 29. Taking a deposition in the presence of the party's attorney, employee, family member, or party with a financial stake in the claim is prohibited.
Procedural Stipulations in Discovery
Parties may make stipulations unless the court instructs them to the contrary. One such stipulation is that depositions may be conducted regardless of time, place, and length of prior notice and method. Procedures involving governance or limitation of discovery may be modified. However, stipulations that provide an extension of time for discovery require approval from the court. This applies when the adjustment would impact the prior set schedule including date and times for motions and trial.
Other Formal Deposition Requirements
All parties must be notified in writing within a reasonable time frame prior to executing an oral deposition. This notification must include time, date, venue, and party to be deposed. If the identity of the party subject to deposition is not known, then a general description describing the individual's identity must be provided. If the party to be deposed is to produce documents or other evidence, it must be requested based on the Rule 34 instructions.
The method used to document the testimony must be disclosed prior to deposition. Testimony may be recorded via audio, visual, or stenographic methods and the costs of doing so are the responsibility of the deposing party, which applies to copies necessary for other parties. Alternative means of documenting testimony may be designated unless the court opposes. Depositions may be conducted via telephone or other means of communication between parties in separate physical locations.
Officer Duties at a Deposition
At the onset of a deposition, the individual that meets the officer requirements must state the following:
- The contact information of the officer
- The time, date and location of the activity
- Contact information of the deponent
- Confirmation that the oath was conducted
- A listing of all parties present
Prior to the conclusion of a deposition, the officer must announce that the action is ending and state any stipulations that pertain to the possession or availability of the transcript, recording or other mode of documentation. Your attorney will then instruct you on the next course of action.