Magistrate Judge Brown — Stupefied! — Instructs on Proper Deposition Conduct


Yet again the litigation between Peter Halmos and his insurers have resulted in another classic order.

In this one Judge Brown attempts to explain to Mr. Halmos how witnesses (and their lawyers) are supposed to act at a deposition.It starts pretty strong:

This matter is before this Court on plaintiffs’ Objection to Judge Klein’s Ruling of March 10,2010 (D.E. 586). The Court has considered the objection, the responses thereto, the reply, and all pertinent materials in the file. As usual, both sides have contributed to the problem.

But then Judge Brown gets rolling:

Mr. Halmos should understand that the scope of allowable discovery is rather broad. It is not the same as admissible evidence. There are a limited number of allowable reasons for refusing to answer questions propounded (and “I don’t want to answer that question” is not one of them). For example, while the Court recognizes that he might not want to answer certain questions regarding litigation between he and his family, and would completely understand his desire not to go there, that is not a basis for not answering. Comments by other plaintiffs’ lawyers (“So now we’re going to have an additional 20 minutes of questions about litigation in his family?”) are improper and do nothing to improve the situation. The reality is, the fact that questions may seem irrelevant to the issues in the case is not a basis to refuse to answer …. even though the information to be furnished may be unpleasant, and even though the information derived may later be deemed to be inadmissible in the trial.

Judge Brown is absolutely right about the sarcastic blather and potshots often thrown out by counsel for witnesses at a deposition, which serve no purpose other than to potentially derail the proceedings and allow the lawyer to feel self-important and in control of a situation he or she has no business attempting to control.(That’s not to say deposing lawyers can’t take undue advantage of a witness and bully or ask about extraneous or improper matters.)

The motion and response are both fun reads too, btw — including allegations of walking out of the deposition(!) upon receipt of the unfavorable ruling by Special Master Klein.

To be honest with you, there is a treasure trove of wonderful pleadings in this case.

If you can spare the 40 cents, I urge you to read the response to an order to show cause on whether the entire case should be dismissed as a sanction for missing an expert report deadline, which includes this wonderful paragraph:

But, these plaintiffs are suing their insurance agents and their carriers for monies owed to them. It is not outside the realm of credulity to suggest that insurance carriers take to heart Ernest and Julio Gallo’s famed line: “No wine before its time.”

Ernest and Julio Gallo?

Hey, you skipped right over Bartles and Jaymes!

(What decade are we in again?)

The actual Order to Show Cause is a hoot as well:

The Court is having trouble ruling on plaintiffs’ motion only because the Court is, quite frankly, stupefied! In all its years as a practicing attorney and a judge, this Court has never seen the actions displayed in this case by plaintiffs and the unimaginable audacity with which they proceed.

See what I mean?