A deposition is a process whereby witnesses provide sworn evidence. They are used to gather pretrial information, specifically to discover what a witness may know and to preserve that testimony for later use in court. Depositions usually in the office of an attorney. They are conducted in the presence of a court reporter who maintains a verbatim record of everything said during the deposition. The person being deposed is under oath and must answer all questions posed by the deposing attorney. Deposition questions vary on a case-by-case basis, but introductory, background and deposition preparation questions are fairly standard across the board.
Introductory questions serve two purposes. First, they help put the witness at ease and second, the responses help keep the witness honest at trial. Commonly asked preliminary questions include the following:
- You understand that you are under oath? And that being under oath means you are sworn to tell the truth?
- Have you ever had your deposition taken in the past?
- You understand that your responses here have the same force as in a courtroom with a judge and jury?
- Are you prepared to answer my questions today?
- There isn’t anything that will prevent you from providing me your full attention?
- You aren’t taking any medications that will prevent your answering my questions?
- You will let me know if you don’t understand one of my questions?
- If you need to take a break at any time, just tell me and we’ll take a break. Is that okay?
These questions are meant to protect both the deponent and the questioning attorney. Making sure that both individuals are prepared for the deposition and that each understands the implications of a sworn oath.
Basic Background Questions
Once preliminary responses have been recorded, the attorney conducting the depositions will move on to specific questions concerning personal information and historical background. These questions are broken into five categories.
- What is your full name?
- Have you ever used any other names? Maiden name?
- Do you have any nicknames? What are they?
- What is your date of birth? Where were you born?
- What is your age?
- What is your social security number?
- Residential History
- What is your current address?
- How long have you lived there?
- Where have you lived previously?
- For how long were you at those addresses?
- Why did you move?
- Did anyone live with you? Who? For how long?
- Marital History
- Have you ever been married?
- What is your spouse’s name?
- What is your spouse’s occupation?
- Where does your spouse work?
- Do you have children?
- Are they employed? If so where?
- Educational history
- Where do/did you attend school?
- What level of education do you have?
- What schools or colleges have you attended?
- Did you finish? Why not?
- What degrees do you hold?
- Legal History
- Have you ever been arrested? When? Why?
- Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
- What crime did you commit?
- What was the penalty for your crime?
- Have you been involved in any other legal claims or lawsuits? When? Where?
Deposition Preparation Questions
The deposing attorney is allowed to question the witness as to how they prepared for the deposition. Common questions in this vein include:
- How did you prepare for this deposition?
- Have you spoken to anyone other than your counsel about this case? Who?
- What, specifically was discussed?
- What documents pertaining to the case have you reviewed?
- Did you meet with counsel for the other side prior to this deposition?
- Have spoken with or signed any agreements with reporters regarding the case in question?
- Tell me everything you did to prepare for this deposition?
Following these common questions, the deposing attorney will ask very specific case related questions. However, deponents who are familiar with these questions and prepared with honest answers will usually fare better in the case related portion of the deposition.