A deposition is the gathering of sworn verbal testimony under oath. Except for communications that are protected by attorney/client privilege and the 5th amendment right against self-incrimination, witnesses are required to answer deposition questions. If a lawyer feels that a question is confusing, misstates testimony, lacks foundation, or assumes facts not in evidence, it is proper for an objection to be lodged before the question is answered. In most instances, the objection should simply be, “I object to the form of the question.” This alerts the deposing lawyer that there may be a problem with the question. However, unless the lawyer invites the objecting attorney to explain or clarify the objection, nothing more should be said. Unfortunately, some lawyers abuse the right to object by not only explaining and clarifying without been asked to do so, they also suggest the response the witness should make. This obstructs the fact gathering process and is prohibited by various authorities.
It is difficult to keep disagreeable attorneys from staying in bounds during depositions. One solution is to warn the attorney and if the abuse continues, try to get the presiding judge on the telephone to issue a ruling on the spot. Sanctions can be sought after the deposition, but the cat is out of the bag by then.
Here is the ammunition:
- Section E.8. of the Florida Bar’s Guidelines for Professional Conduct: This guideline instructs use of the language, “I object to the form of the question,” and counsels against speaking objections that “coach the deponent or suggest answers.” The guide urges the courts to “take stern action to put a stop to such practices and to serve as a deterrent to others.”
- Section E.11: Tells attorneys to refrain from making self-serving speeches during deposition.
- Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.310(c): Provides that “Any objection during a deposition shall be stated concisely and in a nonargumentative and nonsuggestive manner.”
- The Haskell Co. v. Georgia Pacific Corp., 684 So.2d 297 (Fla. 5th DCA 1996).
- Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(c)(2): Provides that objections “be stated concisely and in a nonargumentative and nonsuggestive manner.”
- Southern District of Florida Administrative Order 96-36: This Order adopts the