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In law, discovery is a process of obtaining information. Deposition testimony is a type of discovery that typically precedes a trial. It involves people making sworn statements, usually without the presence of a judge. In many instances, one attorney aims to use the deposition to encourage the other side to settle without a trial.
Deposition testimony is not gathered in a courtroom. A deposition normally is conducted in an unofficial location, such as a lawyer’s office. Both the representing and the opposing legal teams also should be present. The only court entity that is required to be present is the court reporter. Rarely will a judge be in attendance, and a jury never is present.
A judge may, however, be relied upon to settle disputes that arise in the process. For example, if there are questions regarding a particular line of questioning, a judge can be contacted. His decision on the matter should be carried out.
Several objectives can be satisfied by a deposition. Attorneys can find out what a person knows and how credible he seems when presenting that information. They can get an idea of the type of witness a person will be if he must go into the courtroom. Deposition testimony also can restrict a person to telling a certain story if he goes to court.
The questions that are asked during a deposition may not strictly pertain to the matter at hand. An attorney can ask personal questions such as those about employment history, family, or living situations. This portion of the deposition testimony typically helps to ascertain what type of person is speaking. It also helps to demonstrate the knowledge a witness may have of the case and to see how relevant the testimony could be.
It is important to note that other people besides the two main parties may be called to testify. Since so much can be determined by deposition testimony, it often helps the parties to determine whether a case should be taken to trial. The party whose case appears weakened by the deposition may offer to settle out-of-court. If the parties decide to proceed to trial, the deposition also can help them to determine whether a certain witness should be used, and if he is, how he should be handled.
There are several ways that deposition testimony is preserved. A court reporter will make a written record, known as a transcript. The deposition also may be recorded in audio and visual format. If the case proceeds to trial, these items could be admitted as evidence.
A copy of the transcript should be distributed to all parties. The transcript of the deposition testimony should be signed by the witness after he has read it. If the case proceeds to trial and he is not available to appear in court, this document can be used to represent his testimony.