"This is a grudge match," begins Judge Easterbrook's opinion in Redwood v. Dobson. The case concerns bad behavior by lawyers in depositions. It's an opinion with an undeniable entertainment value, though you have to keep in mind, as Easterbrook himself points out, that the behavior by the lawyers described in the case is "not as bad as the insult-riddled performance by Joe Jamail that incensed the Supreme Court of Delaware."
If you're keeping score, lawyers on both sides of the case behaved badly. By the end of the opinion, Easterbrook takes it upon himself to "censure" some of them and "admonish" another, the latter sanction being not so harsh as the former. Here's a recounting of some of the lawyers' wrongs--
- Asking harassing questions;
- Feigning an inability to remember;
- Pretending not to understand ordinary words;
- Giving improper instructions not to respond.
Did I mention the deponent was a lawyer? If you decide to read the case for its practical tips, Easterbrook's opinion explains the few circumstances in which a deponent can be instructed not to answer a question under the federal rules. "A person may instruct a deponent not to answer only when necessary to preserve a privilege, to enforce a limitation directed by the court, or to present a motion under Rule 30(d)(4)." Note that being harassed isn't on the list. In that event, the defending lawyer must call off the deposition and apply for a protective order.
The deponent, meanwhile, may be entitled to "stalk out of the room," though that part of Easterbrook's opinion might merely be dicta.