This morning, I tried to depose the defendant in a dispute among two partners. I say “tried” because the proceeding lasted all of ten minutes. Though my client warned me his former business associate acts the bully, neither of us expected him to make such a tangible attempt at intimidation.
After journeying to opposing counsel’s office, I began today’s Q&A with my usual instructions for the witness. Then I showed him the notice requiring his appearance and asked whether he’d brought any documents to the proceeding. People usually answer that question with a “yes” or “no.” Previously, I’d never heard someone respond “no, but…” I’d never even imagined a “no, but” to be followed by an “I did bring this,” with the witness placing a pistol atop the table.
I’m no lover of handguns under normal circumstances, and a deposition runs far from the norm. It’s typically a tense affair for both questioner and “questionee.” Indeed, it’s common for a deponent’s temper to flare at some point during the proceeding. In such event, as I see it, the last thing anyone needs is a loaded weapon within easy reach.
Consequently, after I noted the thirty-eight’s presence on the record, as well as the witness’ blatant attempt at intimidation, I demanded that he store the gun in his car for the duration. Would you believe, he refused? He haughtily informed me of his “carry permit” and stood behind his Second Amendment right to bear arms. Even when his attorney leaned over and, I suspect, told him he had to lose the piece, he smugly refused. He went so far as to demand his deposition continue with the gun, or not at all.
I chose “not at all.” My motion to compel the continuation sans firearm and to impose monetary sanctions should be ready tomorrow.
In the meantime, my adversary telephoned this afternoon to apologize and let me know he’s withdrawing from the case. We both acknowledged the need to modify our practices based on the morning’s events. As he explained, in the future, whenever he prepares a client for deposition, he’ll include a reminder not to come “packing.” Similarly, the next time I depose someone, I’ll expand my general instructions for the witness. At minimum, I’ll advise that sidearms aren’t permitted at the table. Maybe I’ll also suggest: “And if you should feel the need to blow someone’s head off over this lawsuit, just remember: don’t shoot the messenger!”