June 22, 2005

Grow up!

For the past two days, I've had some pretty grueling depositions in Kingsport. That's about two hours away. It's a case with horrific facts, and the stakes are quite high. Yesterday were my clients' depositions and today were some of the defendants' depositions.

Yesterday, one of the defense attorneys in the case jumped down my throat about my objections. She had just asked my client, a laywoman with a high school diploma and a little bit of college that did not culminate in a degree, why she thought there had been medical malpractice. I interposed an objection, which went something like this: "Objection. Calls for expert medical opinion. She's not a doctor and we've hired expert physicians, some of whose opinions have already been disclosed, to opine about the deviations in the standard of care. What this witness has to say about that aspect of the case doesn't matter."

The lawyer asking questions lectured me about how she takes the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure seriously, and Tennessee law does not permit "speaking objections" that tell the deponent how to answer questions, and throws in a little dig about how I've been in Tennessee long enough to know that. Now, it turns out that this lawyer is one of the members of the Board of Law Examiners, who very recently approved my application for admission to the bar in Tennessee, so it's quite possible that she reviewed that application personally in the not-too-distant past. So I didn't want to give her too much attitude back, but I also did not want to back down because I did not think I had crossed the line into instructing my client how to answer. So I said so, refused to withdraw my objection, and instructed my client to answer the question notwithstanding my objection.

Now, if there really had been a "suggested" answer in my objection, it would have been "I don't know." As it turned out, my client went on to offer her opinions anyway, off and on for six long hours. So it seems that I'm not very effective at "speaking objections" in the first place. And there was no call for the rest of the depositions that day for any other objections requiring any exposition anyhow.

That made today, when the same lawyer gave a lengthy and suggestive objection to a question I asked her client, particualrly gratifying when I could simply reference our conversation yesterday and tell her that everything she said to me, I would say back to her. For an instant, her face flashed anger, but then she smiled and said "Touche." Which, if you take even an instant to think about it, was very classy of her.

Bear in mind that my opinion of all of the lawyers on the defense side of this case is that they have been unfailingly friendly and professional, and have done so without sacrificing any of their advocacy on behalf of their clients. (I hope that they would say the same thing about me if asked.) A little sparring and a little pushing of the envelope by both sides is to be expected in the give-and-take of litigation. This is all as it should be. So it's somewhat immature of me to be smug about this little exchange, which really didn't matter at all.

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