Q: What do I do if an attorney asks during a break how you think he/she or the witness is doing in the deposition
A: There are ways to politely avoid the question and the easiest ways I’ve found involve some basic education concerning our job.
We’ve all been asked at one time or another by a well-meaning attorney how we think the deposition is going, how we think the demeanor of the witness is coming across, or if we think they’re answering truthfully. It’s sticky because sometimes we DO have feelings about these things, but we also know it’s not proper to respond one way or the other. There are ways to politely avoid the question and the easiest ways I’ve found involve some basic education concerning our job. Sure, you could go into an explanation of ethics and impartiality, but it’s easier to focus on the actual job we’re doing and how it keeps us busy throughout the deposition, leaving little time to “listen” or evaluate what demeanor or body language is taking place.
Try talking about what’s going on when we’re writing, such as:
We’re concentrating on each individual word, not the sentences or the facts being described.
We’re hearing and learning new acronyms and inputting those into our job dictionary.
We’re keeping track of the exhibits that have been marked and making sure the numbers are marked consecutively.
We’re listening for and marking any spellings we need to ask for at the end of the deposition.
We’re watching and listening to all parties in the room for objections that are interspersed so we can identify the speaker.
We’re cleaning up any misstrokes we might have made so we’re prepared if a rough draft is ordered and we have as clean a version as possible.
If you offer some or all of these things that you’re continually doing throughout a deposition, you’ve redirected the attorney’s question from “what do you think” into a deeper understanding of all that we’re doing each and every minute of the proceeding.
No attorney who understands your position as a reporter would ever encourage or allow you to cross the boundaries of impartiality. And no reporter who respects their job within the proceeding would cross that line. This very polite re-direction of the conversation keeps you in the position of a neutral guardian of the record.
Should the attorney ask again what you think about how he/she or the witness is doing and you haven’t deterred them in that pursuit, you could always explain that we really don’t “listen” to the proceedings in the way an attorney, juror or judge would. It’s basically in one ear and out the other. Once you’ve written the word or phrase, it’s out of your mind and gone, versus being a continuing saga or story you’re following. I’ve told attorneys before that my husband, early on in our marriage, would sometimes ask what a particular day’s deposition was about, and I honestly had to tell him that I didn’t know!!
Have you been in an “on the job” situation that you were unsure how to handle?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a scenario you’d like a solution for!
Judy Stevens has been a firm owner in Denver since 1994 before becoming part of Veritext in 2019. She began her career as a court reporter in Tucson, Arizona before moving to Denver, Colorado. In 2000, Judy earned the highly coveted designation of Certified Manager of Reporting Services (CMRS) by the National Court Reporters Association while building her firm, mentoring her team and also serving on the board of her state association and volunteering through the Alliance of Professional Women.
Over the years, Judy and her firm have been recognized by the Denver Business Journal as one of the “Top 10 Fastest Growing Denver-Area Private Companies” and she has been nominated by the Denver Business Journal for its “Outstanding Women in Business” award on numerous occasions. In addition, Judy was recognized by NCRA with its prestigious “Excellence Award for Leadership and Team-Building” and has authored many articles for the JCR magazine. Judy is also quite active in her teaching/mentoring role as a regular guest lecturer at both Arapahoe Community College and the University of Denver Law School.