Coaching a Witness During Deposition is Prohibited!

Updated on August 15, 2017

We have been taking a lot of depositions lately and, in so doing, we have noticed a lot of improper coaching of witnesses during deposition by opposing counsel. This caused us to revisit the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s Rules Guidelines for Civility in Litigation.

In particular, Appendix 3.A provides:

(8) While a question is pending, counsel should not, through objections or otherwise, coach the deponent or suggest answers.

What does this mean? It means that when a lawyer asks a question the deponent (the person answering the question) must answer the question only subject to the deponent’s lawyer’s objection. The lawyer cannot take or break or attempt to go off the record while the question is pending. That is completely improper. The deponent must answer the question without any aid or help from his lawyer.   The idea behind this rule is that the deponent should provide a truthful somewhat raw answer on the spot, not an answer crafted by the deponent’s lawyer.

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The Los Angeles County rule seems settle any debate as to what is proper conduct at a deposition.   There are several cases that discuss this issue throughout jurisdictions across the United States.

For example, the Federal Court of Appeals stated In Re Stratosphere Corporation, 182 F.R.D. 614 (D. Nev.1998),

“If they are requested by the deponent or deponent’s counsel, and the interrogating attorney is in the middle of a question, or is following a line of questions which should be completed, the break should be delayed until a question is answered or a line of questions has been given a reasonable time to be pursued. . .”

We tend to agree with this.   It defeats the purpose of a deposition if the lawyer can interrupt and improperly coach a witness.   At Schorr Law, our attorneys have conducted literally hundreds of depositions and know exactly how important they are. For help with your real estate matter, contact us today.

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