As a court reporter, I have sat through thousands of depositions and heard thousands of variances on the admonitions attorneys give the witness at the beginning of a deposition. Many attorneys have a checklist that they use so as to not forget any particular admonition. These eight admonitions are the most common:
1. All testimony is under oath just as if the witness were testifying in a court of law. Penalty of perjury laws apply.
2. Answers need to be audible, no shakes of the head, shoulder shrugs. “Uh-huh” and “huh-huh” are difficult to interpret in a written form.
3. Witnesses may estimate, should not guess. (Example: How much change is in my pocket? = Guess. How much change is in your pocket? = Estimate)
4. Everything that is said is being taken down by the court reporter verbatim, unless everyone agrees to go off the record.
5. You will have an opportunity to read/sign the deposition transcript and make corrections you believe are necessary.
6. Allow question and any objections to be stated before you speak. The court reporter cannot take down more than one person speaking at the same time. Otherwise, the record will be jumbled, and the questions and answers will be disjointed. Pause before answering so counsel have a chance to object to a question.
7. Objections are for the record. Unless your counsel instructs you not to answer, you are to answer. The judge will later decide what questions and answers will be allowed in future proceedings.
8. Breaks are allowed.
Admonitions that might bring objections or waive Federal Code provision:
1. You must answer a question that is pending before being allowed to take a break.
2. You will have a chance later to read/sign transcript; but if changes are made, and they are substantive, that can reflect poorly at trial on your being truthful while at the deposition. (Court reporters are taught that if this admonition is given in a deposition that falls within the Federal Rules, Rule 30 comes into play, and the witness will have the right to read/sign.)
In another related article, we discuss Witnesses Unintentionally Waive Right to Read/Sign Under Federal Rules.