Legal Interpreter Services during Interpreted Deposition with Attorney’s Numerous Objections
Legal deposition interpreters are well accustomed to interpreting attorneys’ objections during depositions of non-English-speaking witnesses. Litigation is inherently contentious. Legal depositions are often particularly emotional- not only for the litigants themselves- but for the attorneys, who are required to be “zealous advocates” for their clients. Depositions involving English speaking clients and witnesses are complicated enough; add foreign language deposition interpreting services into the mix, and depositions become even more difficult to navigate smoothly.
In one of the cases discussed below, things got so out of hand during a foreign language deposition that the court ended up sanctioning both parties’ lawyers for their conduct during the depositions. In another case, the judge ordered the offending attorney to re-read the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on discovery practice.
Court Sanctions Both Plaintiffs’ and Defendant’s Attorney for Unprofessional Conduct During Depositions.
In the case described below, attorneys for both sides let their emotions get the best of them, resulting in sanctions from the court.
In Rojas v. X Motorsport, Inc., et al., the plaintiffs, a mother and son, filed a federal lawsuit alleging violations of state and federal laws related to their allegedly unlawful detention at the X Motorsport car dealership (“Dealership”). The lawsuit included a claim for emotional distress. The husband/father also filed a separate lawsuit against the Dealership for violations of the Truth in Lending Act, which resulted in summary judgment being entered against him.
While the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was pending, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment arising out of a verbal altercation that occurred between the representative attorneys during depositions. During the first deposition, the dealership’s attorney began asking the husband whether his wife had a prior shoulder injury and whether she had received treatment for it. The husband answered a few questions reluctantly, upon the advice of his attorney. When the dealership’s attorney began asking questions as to whether the wife took medication for the injury, the dealership’s attorney instructed the husband not to answer any more questions on the topic.
Plaintiffs’ Attorney Instructs Spanish Deposition Interpreter to Stop Interpreting
The wife was deposed later that same day with the assistance of a Spanish deposition interpreter. During the wife’s deposition, her attorney similarly instructed her not to answer questions about the medication she was taking for anxiety on the grounds that it was irrelevant. The wife’s attorney argued that the questions were irrelevant because they were not claiming psychiatric injuries but, rather, a “garden variety” injury. The attorneys got into a heated argument and, at one point, the plaintiffs’ attorney instructed the English to Spanish deposition interpreter to stop interpreting questions because they were “harassing” to the wife. The argument became even more intense, and ended with the dealership attorney telling the plaintiffs’ attorney to “shut his big f-ing mouth.”
The parties subsequently filed cross motions for sanctions against the opposing party’s attorney for their actions during the depositions.
Regarding the defendant’s motion for sanctions against the plaintiffs’ attorney, the court held that the plaintiffs’ attorney’s instruction to the husband not to answer questions about his wife’s medication was improper. The court cited to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(c)(2), which states that “an objection at the time of the examination- whether to…the matter of taking the deposition, or to any other aspect of the deposition must be noted on the record, but the examination still proceeds; the testimony is taken subject to any objection. An objection must be stated concisely in a nonargumentative and nonsuggestive manner. A person may instruct a deponent not to answer only when necessary to preserve a privilege, to enforce a limitation ordered by the court, or to present a motion under Rule 30(d)(3).” The court explained that Rule 30(c)(2) states that there are only 3 reasons for instructing a witness not to answer, and none of them applied to this case. Specifically, the court held that the questions to the husband about his wife’s shoulder injury were at least somewhat relevant to the case.
The court also found that the plaintiffs’ attorney’s behavior during the wife’s deposition was unprofessional. The court held that the attorney’s instruction to the wife not answer the questions was improper, and that his instruction to the Spanish legal deposition interpreter not to interpret was unjustified. As the court explained, “there often can be a fine line between zealous advocacy, which of course is allowed, and violating Rule 30(c)(2) and engaging on other obstreperous deposition conduct, which is not.” However, the court held that the plaintiffs’ attorney’s conduct “fell nowhere close to that line” and that sanctions were “clearly in order.”
As to the plaintiffs’ motion to sanction the defense attorney, the court held that the dealership’s attorney also “crossed the line,” although not as seriously as the plaintiffs’ attorney, and even though the plaintiffs’ attorney’s conduct was “maddening.”
Consequently, the court granted the parties’ cross-motions for sanctions. The court censured the plaintiffs’ attorney for “conduct unbecoming a member of the bar” and admonished the defendant’s attorney for losing her temper and for swearing. However, the court found the plaintiffs’ attorney’s conduct to be much more egregious. The case is Rojas v. X Motorsport, Inc., Case No. 16 C 2982, decided on September 27, 2017 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.
Court Grants Motion for Sanctions Against Attorney; Orders Him to Re-Read Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
In IPS Group, Inc. v. Duncan Solutions, Inc., the defendants filed a motion for sanctions against the plaintiff and the plaintiff filed a cross motion for a protective order following a contentions deposition in which the plaintiff’s attorney instructed his client not to answer questions.
During the deposition, counsel for the defendant attempted to ask the witness certain questions that were not pleasing to the plaintiff’s attorney. Instead of objecting, the plaintiff’s attorney demanded that the defendant’s attorney provide an explanation of the relevancy of the question and, when the defendant’s attorney refused to do so, the plaintiff’s attorney instructed his client not to answer the question. The defendants argued that the plaintiff’s attorney improperly instructed the witness not to answer the questions. In response, the plaintiffs argued that the questions were in bad faith and were intended to embarrass the plaintiff.
Counsel Must Follow Federal Rules of Civil Procedure When Instructing a Witness Not to Answer Questions Posed During Deposition of a Non-English-Speaking Witness.
The court found that the plaintiff’s attorney’s instruction not to answer the questions was “improper and impeded and frustrated the fair examination of the deponent.” The court reasoned that the plaintiff’s attorney did not object to the questions at the time on the grounds that they were in bad faith or were intended to embarrass the plaintiff. If the attorney really thought that the questions were in bad faith, the court held, he was required to move to terminate or limit the deposition pursuant to Rule 30(d)(3)(A). The court held that the fact that the plaintiff’s attorney did not do so “speaks volumes.”
The defendants also took issue with the plaintiff’s counsel instructing the witnesses not to answer questions about the witness’s prior sworn statement. The plaintiff’s attorney objected to questions about the statement on the ground that they called for a “legal conclusion.” The court, however, held that the plaintiff’s attorney was “dead wrong” in preventing his client from answering questions about a prior, sworn statement and that he “compounded his error with incivility” by yelling, pointing, and standing during the deposition. Accordingly, the court granted the defendant’s motion for sanctions in part and allowed the witnesses to be deposed on the issues which the attorney prevented the witnesses from discussing. The court also ordered the plaintiff’s attorney to “refrain…from further unprofessional outbursts and to re-read the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governing discovery and deposition practice.”
The case is IPS Group, Inc v. Duncan Solutions, Inc. Case No. 15cv1526-CAB-MDD, decided on August 11, 2017 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.
Legal translation services company All Language Alliance, Inc. provides professional deposition interpreters in any language, including Arabic, Twi, Somali, Russian, Spanish, Polish, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Hmong, Mandarin Chinese. Contact our deposition translation service to hire a professional deposition translator for a deposition of a foreign national or a non-English-speaking witness.
**This legal translations blog article should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal needs.