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The Art of the Deposition

Long forgotten by many, and rarely used to its full potential by few, a deposition is a tool at the hand of any attorney who desires to use it.

Depositions are governed by O.C.G.A. § 9-11-30 and allow any attorney the opportunity to ask a party, or a non-party, questions on the record to gather information. In any matter we pursue on behalf of a client, it is our goal to be as informed as possible. We want to know all the facts. We want all the information so that we know what to expect when we walk into a court room.

Often times, as an attorney, the first time we are able to examine a witness is at a temporary hearing or final trial. And general wisdom says – never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to. Thus, when we are staring at an opposing party on the stand or cross-examining a hostile witness, we are limiting our questions so that we do not generate an unknown response that we are not ready to address.

If the first opportunity we have to ask a questions or gather information is in that temporary hearing or final trial, we have lost all ability to explore unknown areas or gather additional information for fear of opening up a can of worms in front of a judge.

But wouldn’t it be great to have a dry run for a temporary hearing or a final trial? Wouldn’t it be great to ask any question you wanted to gather information? To explore different answer? To dive deeper to get to the truth of the matter? A deposition allows an attorney to do just that. We can safely ask questions we do not know the answers to. We can test out what response we might get and how we could respond to the same. It is an opportunity unlike many others.

Pursuant to Uniform Superior Court Rule 5.3, “ Unless otherwise authorized by the court or stipulated by the parties, a deposition is limited to one day of seven hours. The court must allow additional time if needed for a fair examination of the deponent or if the deponent or another person or other circumstance impedes or delays the examination.” (Emphasis added). An attorney has a total of seven hours to explore topics, gather information, gain insight, and set the tone for a matter.

If you know how to use a deposition properly, you can paint a witness into a corner and get those answers you desire. Outside of fact gathering, a deposition can move a client’s case closer to the finish. A deposition can illicit testimony under oath that witness cannot undue. Moreover, if a witness tries to change their answer (or lie) at trial, they can be impeached. This means that an attorney can show that the witness is lying and then they lose all credibility in front of the Judge.

Depositions can also help you strategize and regroup in preparation for a hearing/trial.

Depositions have unlimited potential in helping your case. So, the next time you speak with your attorney, ask them about the possibility and usefulness of conducting a deposition.

Bill King