There is something about deposition practice that brings out the worst in lawyers. Often the culmination of years of antagonistic litigation, a deposition throws counsel — and frequently their clients — together in a small room where they are unconstrained by the rules of evidence and unsupervised by the judge, whose authority over the process is remote and indirect. Most attorneys behave honorably under the system, but all too often things get out of hand, as lawyers engage in harassment, obstructionism, posturing and endless bloviation. Actual violence is thankfully rare, but threats and challenges are distressingly common, as immortalized by the famous videotape of Texas lawyer Joe Jamail taunting a witness to “come over here and try it, you dumb son of a bitch.”
Most deposition tantrums never come to light, let alone achieve Jamail-like levels of notoriety, but every now and then a nasty dispute becomes the subject of a reported decision. These cases — frequently combining the attributes of both morality tales and soft-core pornography — hold a special fascination for lawyers. Sometimes there is even a lesson to be learned, although it is not always the one intended by the court.
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