Depositions are another common aspect of the pre-trial discovery procedure. A deposition is the sworn testimony provided by a witness or another person of interest in a legal case. Normally, the deposition is taken out of court and there is no need for a judge to be present. Depositions are requested by one of the attorneys acting on behalf of either the plaintiff or defendant. The witness may be an expert who is expected to be called to an impending trial or a witness who may also be called to be present at a trial. The person who is asked to provide the testimony will be placed under oath to tell the truth and be asked questions by either of the opposing attorneys.
The person who is required to testify is called the deponent. If this person is already a party to a lawsuit or is someone who works for a party who is already involved in the case, then the time and place of the deposition is normally given to the attorney acting for the opposing side. If the person who is called to testify is not involved directly in the case, but is an independent third party, then normally they will be required to testify by issuing a sub-poena on that person. In a criminal case, depositions cannot be taken without the consent of the defendant.
Any questions and answers which are made during a deposition are recorded by a court reporter and a transcript prepared which is copied and given to each party on payment of a fee. The deposition as recorded may be used later during a trial to remind a witness of what they have already said or contradict what they say in court. If the witness is not in court, the deposition can be written into the record. A court clerk can issue a sub-poena of a witness who lives or is located in that court district requesting the presence of the witness at a court hearing. If the witness does not attend they can be charged with contempt of court.