Friday, March 15, 2013

Awkwardness & Chivalry

Today I had a hearing at the courthouse on a rather large case.  It was a hearing on a motion to dismiss.  The case is actually three different cases revolving around a single incident and essentially the same parties.  There were six attorneys present for the hearing.  My client didn't really have a dog in this fight, which I why I was at the courthouse instead of the partner on the case.
So there are six attorneys.  I'm the youngest/least experienced by approximately 20 years.  I'm also the only female.  This doesn't bother me (except for when they tell mildly inappropriate stories and then feel the need to apologize for hurting my womanly sensibilities...but whatever). 
There is one problem...
You see, while chivalry in general might be dead (this is what I hear, at least), it is alive and kicking in Kansas.
No matter where we were going, the other attorneys always made sure to hold the door open for me and then everyone follows me.  This means that I got on the elevator first and then also needed to get off first (awkward, but doable).  it means that I went into the judges chambers first.  I went into the courtroom first.  I left the courtroom first as we left to sit down and workout some deadlines.  I'm always first.  Again, I don't mind the whole door holding thing...
What I mind is this--generally speaking, I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING!  I'm still learning the ropes around the courthouse and I'm trying to watch the other attorneys to figure out where to go, etc.  It is hard to follow their lead when I'M ALWAYS FIRST.  This lead to a lot of awkward moments where I walked into or out of a room and then just stood off to the side until someone else came out who I could follow...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My First Deposition

Last week I had the pleasure of taking the deposition of a 16-year-old boy.  It was a kind of "training"for one of our newer associates, Paige.  Paige started at the Firm in August of last year.  She is on one of our litigation teams and does the same type of work as me.  She has had the pleasure of watching one of partners depose numerous plaintiffs and other witnesses...but the partner  has a rather serious and dry personality and Paige is a bubbly, happy young woman.  Apparently the powers that be felt that Paige was unlikely to adopt the partner's style, and sent her with me to see something different.

And different it was.  Different as in...not a lot of questions got answered and the deposition was wildly unhelpful.  I've never heard someone say, "I don't remember," "I don't recall," or "I wasn't paying attention" so many times in a single hour.  Anyway, I'm not sure Paige learned anything except that sometimes witnesses are over-prepared by their attorneys and it's annoying.

During our drive home from the worst deposition ever, Paige mentioned the first deposition I ever took...which happened to coincide with her final day at the Firm as a summer associate.  

I've wanted to blog about my first deposition ever since I took it, but I'm a procrastinator by I haven't yet.  Whoops!  I guess now is as good a time as any, right? first deposition...

The first person I ever deposed on my own was the plaintiff in a car accident case.  He was, like most of the people I have deposed, a single man in his mid-thirties.  He was also a felon represented by the epitome of a sleazy plaintiffs' attorney--flashy car and clothes, unbuttoned shirt showing off tufts of grey chest hair, big gold chains around his neck and diamond rings on his fingers...and clearly visible plastic surgery scars.

So...prior to the accident the plaintiff worked breaking horses.  I was questioning him about his experience breaking horses and trying to get him to tell me what "breaking" a horse entails, and I mentioned that I have very little experience with horses (hoping that he would explain everything in a simple and complete way) which he responded that I should come out and go riding with him that was awkward. 

I politely declined his invitation, and moved on with the deposition.  Eventually we got to the injury he sustained in the accident.  He claimed to have pain in one of his hands and poor circulation as a result of the accident.  While discussing his hands he stated, "Yes ma'am, because these are young strong hands (indicating)."  At this point he held his hands out to me and offered to let me hold his hands to see how cold the injured one was as compared with the normal (big & strong?) one...I again declined.

Finally, we got to the fun part of the deposition--the part where the deponent has to tell me all about his/her criminal history.  In this case, I knew coming in that his criminal history was long (thank you, background check!).  He couldn't actually remember all of his past and pending charges...but he could remember that he had been previously convicted for aggravated intimidation of a state witness.  This is actually my favorite part of the deposition, so I'm just going to lay it out for you:

Q (this is "Question"):  And what were you convicted of?
A (and this is "Answer):  Aggravated intimidation of a state witness.
Q:  Can you tell me a little bit about that case?
A:  Do I have to?
Q:  Yes, you do.  What did you do to intimidate him?
A:  I tried to kill him.
Q:  How?
A:  I beat him very severely.
Q:  What was he a witness to?
A:  Because I beat another guy and he had cases already on me.
Q:  So you were charged with beating somebody else and [Witness] was a witness to that beating?
A:  No.  I beat him, too.  I beat two guys in one, and I told him if he testified, it was going to be on.
Q:  Did he testify?
A:  He tried, but I went after him again.  I got a lot of felonies, lady.

For this, he went to prison for 3.5 years.  (Side note:  Still testifying about his criminal convictions, he states, "Don't quote me on that." are under oath and there is a court reporter writing down everything you

So, we continued to talk about past convictions and then we talked a little about currently pending charges.  At the time of his deposition he had 24 counts of aggravated fleeing and eluding...we went off the record so he could tell me all about taking the county police on a high speed chase.

Anyway, we go off the record and I'm getting ready to leave and he asked if I had dinner plans...sorry, can't...

So then he tells me that when the case is over, I should come out to his place and he will teach me to ride horses.  Oh please can I?  Really, I'd just love to come out to the middle of no where and ride horses alone with a convicted felon... [obvious sarcasm].

So that was my very first solo deposition.  It was interesting...obviously.

In case you are wondering, the case settled after my facebook stalking of the plaintiff got us a picture of him fishing after the accident, holding up a big string of fish shirtless...showing off his giant swastika tattoo that took up the entire left side of his chest...and was totally admissible.  Moral of the story:  make sure your facebook setting are properly locked...