In the course of my legal career, I’ve deposed some hard nuts to crack. But the guy who testified this morning gave me less relevant information than all those other crappy witnesses combined. Then again, he had good reason.
An attorney friend of mine fell ill this week and asked me to take a deposition for him. Despite the last-minute timing of his request, he promised I could handle the matter: “It’s a simple defamation case between two landscaping companies,” he advised. “I subpoenaed a former customer of the plaintiff, and I only need to determine if my client told him the plaintiff’s company employs illegal aliens and is really a front for a Meth ring.”
Despite my colleague’s assurances, I’d never felt less ready for a deposition than I did upon my arrival at the hotel conference room where the proceeding had been scheduled. I brought no documents with me, and I couldn’t even remember the witness’ name. About all I could recall were the identities of the parties and the general matters at issue.
Surprisingly, opposing counsel seemed no better prepared for the occasion. As he disclosed while waiting for the Alabama-based witness to arrive, this wasn’t his case either. He too had received an eleventh hour request to fill in for his firm’s assigned attorney. Like me, he also didn’t know the witness’ name and had no idea whether the man would show up.
When the deponent hadn’t yet appeared a half hour past the scheduled start, we began discussing how long we’d wait before packing up. Yet just then, a lost-looking gent stuck his head through the door and inquired: “Is this where the girl at the front desk said I’m supposed to be?”
I assured him he’d found the right place and ushered him into a seat beside the court reporter. After she swore him in, I quickly confirmed his current residence in Alabama and past home in Georgia. Those tidbits, however, constituted the only useful information offered by “Mr. Richards.” Oh, he admitted to employing landscapers while living in Georgia, but he didn’t know which, claimed he’d never spoken to any of them, and insisted that his wife handled all their lawn care needs.
Forced to switch tracks, I queried whether his wife had ever mentioned her discussions with landscapers. Instead of answering my question, he riposted with one of his own: “Excuse me, but when are you going to ask how I like the hotel?”
Normally, I handle deponents’ evasions by reminding them of my question and insisting they answer it. But Mr. Richard’s inquiry seemed so out of place I couldn’t resist pursuing it: “Sir, I’m sure this hotel is quite nice, but why would I ask a witness subpoenaed for a deposition whether he likes the conference room where he’s testifying?”
Perplexed, he responded: “You mean this isn’t the customer survey the girl at the front desk said I could take to earn a free continental breakfast?”
traditionally offered to subpoenaed witnesses.