Deposition reporters record out-of-court oral testimony of witnesses examined under oath for later use in court or for discovery purposes. Historically the modern deposition originated with the adoption of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 1938. As the “officer authorized to administer oaths either by federal law or by the law in the place of examination” under Rule 28, the deposition reporter administers the same oath or affirmation that the deponent would take in court before a judge and jury. Depositions are a part of the discovery process in civil cases in which litigants probe for information in preparation for settlement or trial. They are rare in criminal cases, where the purpose is usually to preserve testimony of witnesses unable to appear in person at a hearing or trial.
Before administering the oath the reporter should collect copies of as much documentary material about the case as is available. A copy of the deposition subpoena or of a case filing should supply a caption for the transcript cover page. Attorney business cards are most useful for accurate information on transcript appearances pages. During the deposition the reporter should mark and retain a copy of each exhibit for complete and accurate listings on transcript contents pages.
After administering the oath the reporter makes a verbatim (word for word) digital or stenographic record of all deposition questions, answers, and colloquies. Some attorneys seem to expect supernatural abilities from reporters, that somehow everything will come out perfectly in the transcript no matter what, but every reporter knows that some witnesses and even some attorneys often fail to speak clearly, an unfortunate fact of life that makes the reporter’s job unnecessarily difficult, but anybody dissatisfied with the transcript blames the reporter, not the speaker.
For this reason it may be wise to suggest to the attorneys that they advise witnesses to speak loudly and slowly in answering questions. Some attorneys could use the same advice for asking questions, but attorneys can be vain, might take offense, and if sufficiently astute should get the idea if they so advise witnesses.
A leading firm like Seattle Deposition Reporters LLC, Washington State’s only gold member of the elite National Network of Reporting Companies, might print a small, colorful handout with this message:
We are delighted to be able to help you with this deposition, and we’ll do a good job for you. We understand that accuracy in transcribed testimony is most important to you. To make the transcript as accurate as humanly possible, we suggest that witnesses be advised to speak up loudly, slowly, and clearly in answering questions.
Such is the general idea though Seattle Deposition Reporters LLC might improve on the wording. Written by Colleen Strand, Seattle Deposition Reporter’s owner.