Answer the Question, Please

“Do I have to answer that?” If you’ve ever watched any of the multitudes of courtroom dramas that have been depicted on television or the movies over the years, you have no doubt seen a witness ask the judge this question. It is usually in response to a question about an embarrassing detail that the witness would prefer to keep to themselves. The judge will almost always instruct the witness to answer the question. or the information sought must be relevant and not subject to privilege or some other exclusion. Relevancy is a pretty broad standard,

Frequently, when I prepare my family law clients for their deposition, he or she will share with me some matter that they consider to be private or embarrassing. They don’t feel that they should have to answer questions about it . They will tell me that they don’t see how the matter is relevant to the case. Unfortunately for my clients, relevancy is not the standard for what can be asked in a deposition. The standard for what can be asked in a deposition is much broader. The deposing attorney can ask any question that is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. This includes not only evidence related directly to the subject matter of the litigation, but also evidence related to the credibility of the witness. For this reason, as the person being deposed, you have to answer almost any question, again unless the information is privileged. In which case, your attorney will object and instruct you not to answer.

Refusing to answer the question can lead to a hearing with the judge, who will most likely instruct you to answer the question. Your refusal to answer will only end up costing you more in attorney’s fees. If you have any concerns about answering questions during your deposition, you should discuss those concerns with your attorney before the deposition. That way your attorney can help you to become more comfortable answering the questions and allow the attorney to determine whether the information is privileged and be ready to object when the question is asked.

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