Family Law Blog post: The Perfect Deponent: Advice on How to Avoid Catching a Bad Case of the “SHUTUPNOWs”

The following post was written over one year ago. Laws often change and recent case decisions may impact how the law is applied. As such, the information in this article may not be current. We encourage you to contact our firm for information on this particular article and to make sure the analysis is still up-to-date.

By Stephen P. Haller, Esq. and Matheu D. Nunn, Esq.

If you have been on the wrong side of Partners Stephen P. Haller, Esq., or Matheu D. Nunn, Esq., during a Deposition (i.e. a pre-trial question-and-answer session), you know that they may want nothing more than for the adverse party or witness (also known as a deponent) to suffer from an affliction known as “the spastic habit of unrelenting talking under pressure, non-responsive or otherwise wordy” (SHUTUPNOW for short). An individual suffering from SHUTUPNOW can best be described as one who seems oddly insistent upon turning what should be a one- or two-word answer into War and Peace, with subsequent answers resembling The Raven, Don Quixote, or J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories – all of them. A person experiencing the SHUTUPNOWs will tend to provide irrelevant, unresponsive, long-winded, nonsensical, sarcastic, emotional and labyrinthine mind-numbing answers to the simplest questions. Indeed, “are you breathing?” could spawn a dissertation on Lamaze classes replete with details of the subsequent birth (an offer to provide a photo is likely to follow). The deponent’s answer may leave everyone in the room – including the deponent’s own attorney – thinking: “at no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought! I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.” (Credit to the Moderator in Billy Madison: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkodTydUR0E).

Haller and Nunn say that they, too, have represented a few (very few) deponents who suffer from SHUTUPNOW. According to Haller and Nunn, SHUTUPNOWis a painful disease – and even more painful to watch. They also caution that a litigant suffering from SHUTUPNOW may, in fact, ruin his case in a feeble attempt to: (a) prove he is a modern-day Albert Einstein; (b) prove the bona fides of the case to the other attorney, who, anecdotally, does not determine the facts; (c) demonstrate his ability to channel his inner-Chandler Bing; and/or (d) play the role of comedian, Jerry Lewis. Haller and Nunn have this advice for deponents who want to be like Albert Einstein, Matthew Perry, or Jerry Lewis in a deposition: by all means, be like Jerry Lewis.

Let them explain.

Earlier this year, Jerry Lewis, age 90, provided an interview to The Hollywood Reporter. Haller and Nunn say that Jerry’s answers – monosyllabic, responsive, honest, even brutal – serve as an excellent tutorial for a deponent. In other words, be like this Jerry: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/hollywood-reacts-thr-jerry-lewis-interview-958221?facebook_20161221, not this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhOcE7Ytigc.  As always, an attorney should prepare his or her client prior to the deposition to avoid an unexpected case of the SHUTUPNOWs.