Lawyer Talk

Dear LawTalk: What is a deposition? I hear that word on TV a lot and dont really know what it means. Dear Reader, a deposition, sometimes known in New York as an examination before trial, is an opportunity for a lawyer to learn information from a witness prior to trial. If a witness is not a named person in the lawsuit, the lawyer wishing to take the deposition will ordinarily serve a subpoena upon the witness, requiring them to be at a certain place and time for the deposition. Usually, the lawyer will try to schedule the deposition at a time and place that is convenient for the witness. At the deposition, the lawyer asking the questions will usually sit at a table across from the witness and a court reporter will normally sit to their side. A court reporter is a person who records every single word that is said at the deposition. Some of them use machines with keys on which they type what is said in shorthand. Some use a device containing a microphone that they fit over their mouth and they speak what is being said, word for word, into the microphone (it is soundproof so you cant hear the reporter speaking into the device). The witness, also called a deponent, is required to swear an oath to tell the truth prior to the start of the deposition. That means that lying in a deposition can be considered perjury. After the deposition, the court reporter later prepares a written transcript of what was said. This serves two main purposes for the lawyers. First, it lets them learn what information the witness has. Second, if the witness says something different at trial than they said at their deposition, the lawyer can point out the discrepancy to the judge and/or jury in order to show that the witness is either lying or has an unreliable memory. Depositions are not done in courtrooms, and are relatively informal. So if you ever have to have your deposition taken, take it seriously, but dont worry about it. In this weekly column Mark Schneider and Daniel Cuppett, the lawyers from the Law Office of Mark Schneider, answer legal questions sent in by Free Trader readers. If you have a question, email it to Lawtalk@northcountrylaw.com or mail it to The Law Office of Mark Schneider, 57 Court Street, Plattsburgh, NY 12901, or fax it to 518-566-6667 (please include your name and phone number). For more information about our personal injury and other practice areas, visit www.northcountrylaw.com or call us at 518-566-6666. Please note that we do not have space to answer all questions, so please do not assume that by sending a question an answer will be printed in the column. If you have a legal problem, consult a local attorney immediately in order to understand and preserve your rights.

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