In this article we will explain what to expect from a deposition in Illinois. We will answer the questions, “what is a deposition?”, “who is present during a deposition?”, “what happens in a deposition?”, and “what can deposition testimony be used for?” We will also explain how to prepare for a deposition and tips for giving deposition testimony.
A deposition is an on-the-record interview of a potential witness prior to trial. The interview is conducted by the opposing attorney for the purpose of gathering information regarding the potential testimony of the other side’s witnesses.
Typically both parties to a case and their attorneys will be present during depositions. A court reporter will also be present to record a word-for-word transcript of the interview. The deposition will typically be conducted at the offices of one of the attorneys.
During a deposition, the attorney who is adverse to the witness will ask the witness a series of questions in order to determine every aspect of the witness’ story and ensure that there are no surprises at trial.
The attorney will often ask the witness to identify certain documents that are relevant to the case. These documents will be marked by the court reporter as exhibits and will be included with the transcript. Once the documents have been marked, the attorney can ask the witness questions regarding the veracity or contents of the documents.
The questioning attorney is able to follow any line of questioning that is relevant to the case. If the attorney for the party in favor of whom the witness intends to testify believes that a line of questioning is inappropriate, he or she may instruct the witness not to answer. Since there is no judge present, any disputes between the attorneys are resolved in one of three ways:
After the attorney conducting the deposition has finished his or her line of questioning, the other attorney can attempt to “rehabilitate the witness” by asking his or her own set of questions. These questions must be limited to the topics covered in the adverse attorney’s line of questioning. This line of questioning is usually used to backtrack on or clarify statements that were harmful to the case the witness supports.
Finally, the adverse attorney will have one last opportunity to question the witness. These questions must be limited to the topics covered by the other attorney’s questions.
Depositions are typically limited to three hours, although they do not always take this full amount of time. Generally, the attorneys and witness will take one or two five-minute breaks by mutual agreement, giving the attorneys time to speak to their clients and the witness time to regroup.
Deposition testimony can be used for the following purposes:
If you are the witness or party being deposed, the attorney for the party who your testimony supports should meet with you prior to the deposition to prepare you. The purpose of this meeting is to make sure that you have reviewed any important documents, that you refresh your memory of the facts of the case, and that you have a clear understanding of the argument that the party your testimony supports is attempting to make.
We always advise our clients to answer all questions honestly, not to stonewall the questioning attorney, but also not to answer more than the attorney is asking. Witnesses run into trouble when they engage in long narratives.
Be polite. Don’t be confrontational. Answer the questions that are asked without giving more elaborate answers than necessary. If you do not know the answer to a question or do not remember, it is okay to say so. Do not guess.