Documents and Papers from a Court : Depositions

What is a deposition?
A deposition is a party’s chance to question another party or witness under oath. A deposition usually takes place with a court reporter taking notes to make a transcript of the questioning. The court reporter is an officer of the court and can swear in witnesses; the court report’s transcript becomes the permanent record of the witness's testimony.

Once the case starts, you can take the deposition of another party by serving a notice that you want to take their deposition. The notice must include the following:

  1. provide notice in writing of the deposition within a reasonable length of time before the date you want to do the deposition;
  2. state the time and place for the deposition;
  3. the name and address of each person to be examined;
  4. if you don’t know the name and address of a person you want to depose, include a description of the person so that they can be identified;
  5. whether you want the deposition to be recorded in any way besides a court reporter using a “stenographic” machine (for example, if you want to videotape the deposition).

If the notice names a company, partnership or association and states with reasonable detail the topics that the questions will cover, the company, partnership or association must choose one or more of its employees or agents to testify on its behalf.

How are depositions recorded?
Depositions are usually recorded stenographically, which means that the court reporter uses a special machine to take notes and later transcribes the testimony word-for-word. If one of the parties asks the court reporter to provide a transcript or written copy of the testimony, the court reporter must do so. The court reporter may charge for taking stenographic notes and for preparing a transcript of the testimony. These services may be quite expensive.

A party can record a deposition in other ways that may be less expensive, such as using a digital recording device. The party who wants to record a deposition without using a court reporter and a stenographic machine must say that in the deposition notice. If the other party objects, it can ask the court to order a court reporter to create a record at the deposition – or order some other means to ensure accurate and trustworthy recorded testimony.

Where do depositions take place?
Depositions can take place in any location that is suitable for a formal meeting. They do not have to take place in a court. Most depositions take place in an attorney's office, although any conference or meeting facility will do. If the parties agree or if a court orders it, a deposition can take place by telephone.

What happens if you receive a Notice to Take Deposition?
You must appear at the time and place stated in the Notice, unless the time or place stated is not reasonable.  If you think that the time or place is not reasonable, you must contact the party who served the Notice of Deposition before the time and place set in the Notice. If the party who served the deposition notice refuses to reschedule it, you may file a protective order with the court. You cannot simply choose to not attend the deposition when it is scheduled at a reasonable time and place.

What happens if I don't attend the deposition?
If you don’t attend the deposition, the party taking the deposition can file a motion to compel that will ask the court to order you to attend the deposition. If you come to the deposition but refuse to answer questions without giving any valid reason, the party taking the deposition can file a motion to compel that will ask the court to order you to answer the questions.

If you fail to attend the deposition or if you refuse to answer questions without valid reason, the court may sanction or punish you. Sanctions can be severe.

On the other hand, if you come to the deposition and answer questions, but the party asking the questions acts in bad faith or acts in ways that unreasonably annoy, embarrass or oppress the witness, the court may order the person taking the deposition to stop or may limit the questions being asked. In this case, the court may sanction the party who asked the annoying, embarrassing or oppressive questions. These sanctions can be severe, as well.

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This content was created by the Ohio State Bar Foundation's 2006 Fellows Class - Keys to the Courtroom Project.

See also the Forms & Education tab in this section for more information.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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