There are several potential uses of deposition testimony within the legal realm, and one of these that’s especially significant is the use of this testimony during the actual trial itself. Reading from deposition transcripts may not be the most exciting part of any trial, but it’s a common practice that often plays a major role in helping attorneys drive home their arguments as they present information on behalf of their client.
At Phoenix Deposition Services, we’re proud to offer a wide range of deposition services, video depositions, and related solutions for all our clients, including many attorneys throughout the Phoenix area. We’re often asked about the details of utilizing deposition transcripts and records within trials – why it’s done or not done in certain cases, whether it’s permitted for your case type and other related factors. Here’s a primer on using depositions within trial, plus some of the specific benefits that often come with doing so.
Is it Permitted?
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that while deposition testimony is usually permitted for use in standard trials, this is not always the case. While there are several different applicable rules of civil procedure that may be put in place by your state or even various local governing bodies, and you should be doing careful research on these, it’s also vital to be aware of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 32.
Combined with the Federal Rules of Evidence, this is the primary set of documents that govern the use of deposition testimony within federal court trials. Generally, it allows for all or part of a deposition to be used against a parts so long as the party was present or represented at the taking of the deposition or had reasonable notice of it; in addition, testimony must be used only to the extent it would be admissible under Federal Rules of Evidence if the deponent were present and testifying in the courtroom. In addition, there are several sub-categories of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 32, including proving that testimony is admissible plus some of the ways a deposition transcript can be used. Be sure you know this information before entering federal court, or that you know the pertinent regulations within your state or area for non-federal matters.
Objections and Rules of Evidence
As an attorney, you may also want to object to deposition testimony being used against you in a given trial. Rule 32 sets out various types of objections, including objecting to admissibility of testimony that would not be admissible if the witness were present and testifying in person. Other objections include claims that testimony included hearsay, testimony is irrelevant, testimony is prejudicial, or testimony is cumulative.
If you attempt to object to testimony being used, or if you’re preparing for a potential objection from opposing counsel for your use of such deposition testimony, it’s vital to be familiar with the Rules of Evidence we mentioned above. These will contain comprehensive definitions of procedural rules and cases where testimony might not be admissible.
Our next several sections will go over some of the specific benefits of utilizing deposition testimony within a trial, plus why this is a common strategy taken by attorneys in the courtroom today.
Testimony of Absent Witnesses
Perhaps the single largest benefit of utilizing deposition testimony is also very straightforward: For witnesses or anyone else who is simply unable to attend an actual trial or hearing, the deposition allows their testimony to be taken and heard by the court regardless. As long as the proper deposition rules and regulations are followed, something every attorney is well aware of, the law states that courts must allow sworn deposition testimony to carry exactly the same weight as it would if it was given in-person during the trial.
What defines an acceptable reason for a witness to be absent from a trial? There are a few that are generally accepted by courts, including (but not necessarily limited to) the following:
- The witness is deceased by the time of the trial
- The witness lives more than 100 miles from the location of the trial or hearing
- The witness is unavailable due to age, illness, infirmity or imprisonment
- The witness could not be compelled to attend via subpoena
Using Prior Testimony
In certain legal fields, particularly those like class action or commercial litigation, parties involved in your case will often have been involved in prior litigation on a similar or even identical subject. And in these cases, based on an opinion issued in Baldwin-Montrose Chemical Co. v. Rothberg and resulting precedent, depositions taken in one action “can be used in another action if they contain common questions of law or fact,” plus substantial identity of said issues.
Translation: If parties in your case have given prior deposition testimony that will be relevant to your case, even if it was for another case, you can generally use it. This is often highly beneficial for litigators in specified fields.
Impeachment and Transcripts
Finally, one major tool available to attorneys is impeachment – but this must be used properly. You cannot be too heavy-handed with witnesses in this area, a practice that risks being viewed too aggressively by juries.
This is another area where using deposition testimony is hugely valuable. By utilizing their transcript and keeping your line of questioning similar to what was asked during the deposition, you can identify inconsistencies – and perhaps even give the witness a chance to re-confirm their answer before presenting them with a contradictory statement that may qualify for impeachment.
For more on why it’s so valuable to use deposition testimony within a trial, or for information on any of our Phoenix court reporters and our comprehensive services, speak to the staff at Phoenix Deposition Services today.