Professionalism in Depositions

The Importance of Local Practice and Common Courtesy

By Angela D. Lydon

Professionalism In DepositionsPRO HAC VICE Admission is an invaluable tool when a client seeks your counsel for an out-of-state matter. Normally, a review of the local rules and adherence to generally accepted practices are sufficient to enable a successful appearance. However, a recent case from the Northern District of Iowa illustrates that practicing in an unfamiliar jurisdiction can be far from straightforward. Even defending a deposition – an act which few seasoned lawyers would consider daunting – can have serious, unintended consequences for an outsider who does not understand the court’s (sometimes unwritten) customs and preferences.

The Security National Case

In Security Nat’l Bank Labs. Of Sioux City v. Abbott Laboratories, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102228 (N.D. Iowa July 28, 2014), Judge Bennett recently sanctioned a well-respected, out-of-state lawyer for what he characterized as “obstructionist” deposition conduct. The opinion was noteworthy for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Judge Bennett took issue with counsel’s repeated use of “objections as to form” without offering any grounds for the objection. In Judge Bennett’s view, “form” objections are improper because they merely refer to a “category of objections” that includes leading, lack of foundation, assuming facts not in evidence, non-responsive answer, and witness’ answers that were beyond the scope of the question. According to Judge Bennett, “form” objections “are inefficient and frustrate the goals underlying the Federal Rules because they contain no information about a question’s alleged defect and make it difficult or impossible for a reviewing court to determine whether the objection was proper or frivolous.

Judge Bennett is not alone in his view that “form objections are inappropriate. For example, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Please Local Rule 13.1 provides: “Counsel may interpose an objection by stating ‘objection’ and the legal grounds for the objection.” Several judges agree that “form” objections merely refer to a category of objections. See, e.g., NGM Ins. Co. v. Walker Const. & Dev., LC 2012 U.S. dist. LEXIS 177161, at *2 (E.D. Tenn. Dec 13, 2012) (explaining that “form” objections refer to objections to leading questions, a lack of proper foundation, questions assuming facts not in evidence, and argumentative questions.”); Rakes v. Life Investors Ins. Co. of Am., 2008 U.S Dist LEXIS 10996, at *5 (N.D. Iowa Feb. 14, 2008) (permitting the objection “to state in a few words the manner in which the question is defective as to form(e.g., compound, vague as to time, misstates the record, etc.)”).

Conversely, many judges condone or even prefer the sue of unspecified “form” objections. See, e.g., Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. Serrano, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1363, at *5 (D. Kan. Jan. 5, 2012) (objections to vagueness “should be limited to an objection ‘to form,’ unless opposing counsel requests further clarification); Druck Corp v. Macro Fund (U.S.) Ltd., 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16721, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Aug 12, 2005) (“[A] ny ‘objection as to form’ must say only those four words, unless the questioner asks the objector to state a reason.”); Turner v. Glock, Inc., 2004 WL 5511620, at *1 (E.D. Tex. Mar. 29, 2004) (“All other objections to questions during an oral deposition must be limited to ‘Objection, leading’ and “Objection, form.”’); In re St. Jude Med., Inc., 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28020, at *5 (D. Minn. May 24, 2002) (“Objecting counsel shall say simply the word ‘objection’ and no more, to preserve all objections as to form.”); Auscape Int’l v. Nat’l Geographic Soc’y, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16675, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 6, 2002) (“Once counsel representing any party states, ‘Objection’ following a question, then all parties have preserved all possible objections to the form of the question.”)

This difference in opinion among judges may be attributed to the fact that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are far from clear on this issue. Rule 30 (c)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides: “An objection must be stated concisely in a nonargumentative and nonsuggestive manner.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 30 (c)(2) (emphasis added). Rule 32 (d)(3) cautions that certain objections are waived if not timely made during the course of the deposition, including those objections that “relate [] to the manner of taking the deposition” and the “form of a question or answer.” Fed. R. Vic P. 32(d)(43) (emphasis added). The advisory committee notes add that “objections on grounds that might be immediately obviated, removed, or cured, such as to the form of a question or the responsiveness of an answer” must be made at the time of the deposition. Based on this language, “many lawyers – and courts for that matter – assume that uttering the word ‘form’ is sufficient to state a valid objection.” See Security Nat’l Bank.

Giving the conflicting precedent, Judge Bennett did not sanction the out-of-state attorney specifically for her use of “form” objections. Instead, he stated, “lawyers should consider themselves warned: Unspecified ‘form’ objections are improper and will invite sanctions if lawyers choose to use them in the future.”

Judge Bennett was not so tolerant, however, in addressing the attorney’s overall behavior during the deposition. Indeed, he sua sponte imposed sanctions on the attorney and her firm for obstructionist deposition conduct,” explaining that the improper “form” objections “amplified two other issues: witness coaching and excessive interruptions.” Judge Bennett explained that he was “shocked” by the out-of-state attorney’s hundreds of unnecessary objections and interruptions during deposition questioning. Most of the objections were meritless and often influenced the witnesses’ responses: “Counsel’s improper objections, coaching and interruptions went far beyond what judges should tolerate of any lawyer, let alone one as experienced and skilled as counsel.”

Local Implications of the Security National Case

Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael P. Donnelly shares Judge Bennett’s desire to curb unprofessional conduct during depositions. Judge Donnelly is committed to advancing the ideals of professionalism throughout all facets of our legal system. To that end, he is a member and (and two-time former chairman) of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism.

Judge Donnelly noted that the Ohio Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism considers unprofessional conduct during depositions a serious and growing problem. In his opinion, unprofessional deposition conduct not only adds unnecessary delay and expense to litigation, but also erodes public confidence in attorneys and the entire judicial system. He expressed his disappointment over the fact that YouTube has become riddled with videos showcasing unprofessional attorney conduct during depositions.

In an effort to deter obstructionist deposition conduct, the commission published the “Do’s and Don’ts of Depositions.” Ohio Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, Professionalism Do’s and Don’ts: Depositions, http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/Publications/AttySvc/Depositions.pdf (last visited 9/26/14). This publication begins: “If there is one area of the practice of law that consistently gives rise to an inordinate number of complaints about lack of professionalism, it is the area of depositions.” The guidelines include the following: (1) do arrive on time; (2) do be prepared, having multiple copies of all pertinent documents available; and (3) don’t “engage in conduct that would be inappropriate in the presence of a judge.” Cuyahoga County Local Rule 13.1 (I) incorporates these guidelines and conveys the expectations that “all attorneys practicing before the Court … adhere to the best practices contained in this document.”

Judge Donnelly and Judge Bennett agree that judges must demonstrate their willingness to sanction attorneys for unprofessional and improper deposition conduct. Judge Donnelly stated that ‘it is incumbent upon the bench to take a stand against obstructionist discovery conduct.” Similarly, Judge Bennett wrote in Security Nat’l Bank that “[u]nless judges impose serious adverse consequences, like court-imposed sanctions,” these discovery abuses will continue to occur because obstructionist discovery tactics will continue to succeed.

However, Judge Donnelly believes professionalism is a shared responsibility; “Attorneys must also be willing to stand against unprofessional deposition conduct.” He advises attorneys to create a record of all unprofessional conduct that occurs during depositions. An accurate record enables the court to take corrective action, if necessary.

Judge Donnelly also urges attorneys to keep the court apprised of discovery disputes. He believes judges must remain accessible to the attorneys practicing before him or her. To that end, he makes it a priority to be available to litigants during all phases of litigation, including discovery. While most judges, including Judge Donnelly, frown upon discovery disputes, it is often easier to call the court to resolve an issue during a deposition rather than engage in costly and time-consuming motion practice thereafter.

In conclusion, the Security Nat’l Bank opinion serves as a useful reminder: Not only are attorneys required to zealously represent their clients, but they are also required to uphold certain professional standards. The importance of becoming familiar with local practice and using civility and respect during depositions cannot be overstated.

Angela D. Lydon is an associate in Frantz Ward’s Litigation Practice Group. Angela handles a broad mix of general litigation issues, including business torts, breach of contract and warranty claims, and products liability. She has been a CMBA member since 2012. She can be reached at (216) 515-1670 or alydon@frantzward.com

Angela would like to thank Hon. Judge Michael P. Donnelly of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas for donating a substantial amount of time to answering her questions and offering his invaluable advice and opinions for use in this article. Judge Donnelly has been on the bench since 2005. Prior to serving as a judge, Judge Donnelly was in private practice and served as an assistant county prosecutor.

This article has been republished with permission by the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association.

The Death of Business Casual

by Robert Madelmayer 

It boils my blood to see how some “men” get dressed in the morning and head to work. The baggy shirts, ill-fitted pleated khaki pants and square-toed shoes with thick rubber soles; business casual is dead.

Enough.

Years ago, men from pretty much every profession would get suited up daily and head to work. The popular AMC show Mad Men does a good job depicting the modern male dress code in the 1960s. They looked sharp, well put together, and professional. These guys killed the game back in the day.

the-death-of-business-casual

Somehow though, we have lost our way.

What happened?

I’ll tell you what happened … the dot-com era happened. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, tech companies started to hire younger talent. This younger workforce didn’t want to wear suits and ties like their fathers did, and these companies recognized that. So, they loosened up the dress code in order to entice this younger workforce to join corporate America. The problem is that men became increasingly lazy and they started to care less and less about what they wore. This slippery slope brings us to where we are today, and it’s a mess.

Going-out-of business casual looks like this.

The Death of Busienss Casual

Take a look around next time you head to the office or go out for lunch during the week. These men are everywhere and people think its okay to leave the house looking like this.

Exposed undershirt. Ill-fitting button down, and pleated pants. Cell phone holster. Square-toed shoes. All of it needs to go.

 

When it comes to professional attire, there is a Catch-22 for guys. If a guy leaves the house too well put together, he runs the risk of people thinking he is some sort of hipster metrosexual (which is fine if you are, but not every well dressed guy should feel this way). If a guy leaves the house looking like he just left a party, he is a slob.

So, now what?

The Death of Business Casual

There is nothing more versatile than a well-tailored blazer, nice jeans, and a crisp button down. This combination is quite literally the backbone of any mans wardrobe, assuming he takes his style serious. It’s a youthful look, but when done right, you can blend into pretty much any social scene.

Meeting a client? Check.

Happy Hour after work? Check.

Date night? Check.

More importantly than what you are wearing though, is how it fits. Women pay attention to these kinds of things and the Modern Man should do the same. Men should have (at the very least) a basic relationship with a tailor they trust. If you don’t know where to start head to this site to find one near you.

Don’t want to spend a ton of money on a bunch of new clothes? No problem. Grab a handful of shirts, and a few pairs of pants you already own and have them tailored. It will feel like you have a brand new wardrobe. I promise.

You can’t look bad if you look good.

 

Reach Robert via Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

 

National Network of Reporting Companies (NNRC) announces Partnership with inData Corporation

NNRC members will offer state-of-the-art litigation and trial consulting services through a strategic partnership and alliance with inData Corporation.

National Network of Reporting Companies (NNRC) announces Partnership with inData CorporationFolsom, CA– {November 20, 2014} – The National Network of Reporting Companies, founded in 1983, and now the largest and oldest network of independently owned national court reporting firms serving as the global source for court reporting, legal video and video conferencing services, today announced a new partnership agreement with inData Corporation based in Gilbert, Arizona, to provide litigation and trial consulting services.

As a result of this partnership, NNRC members will expand their services by utilizing inData’s trial services division to provide experienced trial consulting and related litigation services, explained Chuck Cady, president of NNRC.

“This strategic alliance with inData will enable our independent members to enhance their services by offering full-service litigation support from discovery through trial to litigators nationwide,” said Cady. “This partnership will enable NNRC member firms to establish litigation support divisions that will help time-strapped trial teams expertly produce demonstrative graphics, prepare trial presentations, and choreograph courtroom and war room set-up or simply run presentations during trial.”

The NNRC boasts a network of independent court reporting partners with more than 55 of the most customer-oriented, technologically advanced court reporting firms in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Its members must be recommended and go through an in-depth vetting process before becoming a part of this prestigious network, strategically located in the United States and around the world.

Following inData Corporation’s release of its market-leading trial presentation software, TrialDirector®, the company established a professional services team that has worked side-by-side with litigators in hundreds of trials across the globe and developed a recognized expertise in the legal community for consulting in trials in a variety of industries according to Jordan Ray, inData Vice-President and Trial Services Division Director. “We are delighted to announce this highly-anticipated partnership with the NNRC,” said Ray. “The independent NNRC members provide state-of-the-art technology in court reporting with an unparalleled reputation for ethical and responsive customer service. This alliance provides the industry with seasoned professionals who will seamlessly provide a one-stop shop in all aspects of litigation for litigators seeking the most experienced, technologically advanced litigation services to expedite and win more cases for their clients.”

Further information, please contact Debbe Dreher, executive director of NNRC, at 916-932.2202

About the NNRC

NNRC is the most prestigious and largest litigation support network, handling more than 10 million depositions since 1983. Through personal recommendations, NNRC partners have been assessed as the most technologically advanced and dependable court reporting companies in the USA and worldwide. These independent court reporting firms offer global video depositions, conferencing services, as well as litigation support services. Learn more at NNRC.com.

About inData Corporation

Founded in 1984, inData is a technology company specializing in the management and presentation of information. It is a privately held company, headquartered in Gilbert, Arizona. inData develops innovative software and uses seasoned trial experts to provide software training, trial consulting and graphic services to legal professionals dealing with the challenges of litigation. Software products include the best-selling trial presentation software, TrialDirector®, in addition to TimelineXpress®, TimeCoder™ Pro, DepoView®, DepoView® DVD, and TDNotebook®.

.For further information, visit the inData website: http://www.indatacorp.com or contact Judy Miller, inData National Account Executive and NNRC Liaison

No Court Reporter? Really?

No Court Reporter Really

NNRC can provide reporting support when your legal work takes you anywhere.

by Tom Richardson, President, Stewart Richardson Deposition Services

Litigation is time consuming, complicated, and filled with deadlines. The last thing you need to worry about when taking a deposition is the court reporter. You’ve prepped for your deposition, kissed your spouse goodbye, and jumped on a plane to another city. You’ve arrived at the deposition location, pulled everything you need out of your briefcase, grabbed your fourth cup of coffee, and are ready to engage.

You look around the room and start to wonder, “Where’s the reporter? Did my staff forget to schedule someone to cover the job? The expert witness is charging me by the hour, and my client isn’t going to be happy about paying them to sit there idly.” Probably never happened to you, but it does happen. That’s why the National Network of Reporting Companies (NNRC ) is so valuable.

One short call to your local NNRC member firm, and the wheels begin to turn. Need a location? No problem.   What about a hotel recommendation? Done. Restaurant choices? Here’s the list. But most importantly, the NNRC delivers. Every time.

NNRC members are reliable and exceptionally capable. Unique circumstances are our specialty. Count on us to come through when you need us most. We won’t leave you stranded. Call 866-337-6672 for more information. Or visit nnrc.com to discover the difference NNRC members provide.

With over three decades of experience, Tom Richardson is noted as Indiana’s leading expert in court reporting innovation, service and technology. Under his leadership, Stewart Richardson has grown to be Indiana’s premier deposition firm, with a corporate commitment to integrity and exceeding client needs. Contact Indianapolis court reporters at Stewart Richardson for more information about how they can enhance your legal work

 

Minneapolis Court Reporters

Minneapolis Court Reporters

Minneapolis court reporters are providing new ways of handling cases.

Minneapolis court reporters bring new technology into law firms each day. This new technology is giving the legal community new ways to manage the increased information that comes into cases thanks to the information age. The same connectivity that gives us an incredible flow of information into cases can also be used to the attorney’s advantage when preparing the case, and Minnesota court reporters are leading the way in providing this technology.

Video is now an important part of the law firm. From video conferencing and video depositions to video presentations used in the courtroom, lawyers are finding new ways to bring this technology into their cases. It can help to eliminate travel, provide a better way to consume depositions, and even sway jurors in the courtroom. In each instance, experienced legal videographers provided by court reporting companies are bringing this technology to the law firm.

There are also several more tools that court reporting companies are bringing into the legal field. Realtime reporting, online repositories and other tools are giving attorneys new ways to control and store information, meaning they are equipped to face any challenge anywhere— even when it is far from the practice.

Choosing the right firm can mean the difference between having all of the technology needed to most efficiently and effectively handle a case or being left behind by the competition. Today’s court reporting firms can bring the best technology and the most experience to each challenge faced by the law firm while also providing the accurate and timely reporting services that attorneys need every day.

Realtime Reporting Crucial to Today’s Legal Professional

Realtime Reporting Crucial to Today’s Legal Professional

Realtime is an important element of today’s legal work.

In today’s legal world, having information when lawyers need it is important to success. This means taking advantage of the latest tools to offer the immediacy that gives law firms the most timely and up-to-date information.

Realtime reporting is how lawyers are getting transcripts as they happen, and the technology is available from court reporting companies working with the National Network of Reporting Companies (NNRC).

Realtime reporting means that the shorthand taken by a court reporter on a stenography machine is translated into English and appears immediately on a computer monitor or a large projection screen.

Realtime is similar to translation work, in that it appears on the screen in a rough draft. It appears within seconds of the words being spoken by someone in a courtroom. If an attorney’s computer is set up to the reporter’s computer, the attorney will receive the translation as well. This modern technology allows transcripts of trials to be delivered within hours after a case closes. It also makes it easier to refer to prior testimony during a trial.

Taking advantage of this technology is much easier than ever before through NNRC. We can connect attorneys to thousands of court reporting firms who can provide the professional assistance and technological knowhow to make utilizing realtime a success. These firms can help set up connections that allow an attorney to view transcripts as they happen anywhere in the country.

NNRC Helps Law Firms Across the Country

NNRC Helps Law Firms Across the Country

NNRC is a nationwide resource for legal professionals.

Our legal system is being stretched to its very limits. Criminal and civil courts are backed up, and lawyers are working harder than ever before to meet the needs of their clients.

This also means that there is an even higher demand for court reporters, and this leaves law firms with choices to make.

Because of the demands of the legal field, law firms are trying to find ways to increase their efficiency as they prepare their cases. This can sometimes mean working remotely in other cities through internet connections, but when lawyers do have to travel they need to maximize the value of the trip.

When law firms work out of their own area, it may be difficult to find the right court reporting company. Without local knowledge, they can sometimes be forced to simply make a guess. The National Network of Reporting Companies (NNRC) takes the guesswork out of the process by providing attorneys with a way to connect with the nest court reporting firms in America.

In cities across the country, NNRC is bringing together the best court reporters that can provide the services that are vital to attorneys. With the latest in video technology that allows video depositions and remote depositions through video conferencing, lawyers have a tool that can cut down the burden of travel.

When attorneys do travel, NNRC member firms can provide the facilities to make trips productive. Equipped conference rooms and an eye for problem solving make these firms leaders in their communities.

Law firms pride themselves on leaving nothing to chance. NNRC makes that a reality when choosing a court reporting company. Professional, competent, and flexible court reporting firms anywhere in the country are ready to work with today’s busy legal professionals.