May 6, 2014

Comedic Break: More Fun with Depositions

A bit OT, but a modestly viral video posted by the New York Times with actors portraying an actual deposition where the dimwitted witness claims not to know what a photocopier is has been making the rounds. While I sympathize with the lawyer (dumb witnesses can be really frustrating, even if they're also potential goldmines), there was nothing really all that unusual about that exchange.

But it reminded me of my introduction to depositions. There was a time early in my career when my office shared a wall with the suite's main conference room. One of the partners in the firm I rented space from (and was of counsel to for a time) had a deposition style that was, to be nice, antagonistic. His depositions, which I could often hear clearly when things got heated, would often include bouts of yelling, table pounding, and the like. It was distracting, sure, but consistently hilarious. I say this with an eye on Mel Brooks's old line about comedy being tragic things happening to other people. Certainly, I found nothing funny about battling nasty, obstructionist lawyers in own my depositions. 

The Times bit started me wandering around the internet, where I stumbled into some older, far more entertaining clips of actual depositions. The two below are far from new, but they're new to me. My current fave: famed Texan trial lawyer Joe Jamail was deposing a chemist while an attorney representing Monsanto kept objecting. Another attorney demands to know if the lawyer represents the witness or not, which leads to an increasingly heated argument and near fisticuffs. Very funny. (Link here)

Equally entertaining is the bit below from a deposition where an angry witness goes on a long and increasingly angry rant about some kind of survey or chart or something, only to be asked rather drily whether his answer was a yes or a no. That was a f--- you! he explained, sounding and looking very much like Walter Matthau.  (Link here).


Is there a point? No, not really. Just that litigation can be contentious, aggravating, enraging even. There's often a lot at stake for the parties and for us lawyers. When you're in the midst of the storm, it's absolutely critical that you maintain your poise, no matter how angry you may be. For those of us disinterested spectators, it's just all good comedic theater.

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