Discovery Depositions Law and Legal Definition

The sworn testimony of a witness taken before trial held out of court with no judge present. The witness is placed under oath to tell the truth and lawyers for each party may ask questions. A deposition is part of pre-trial discovery (fact-finding), set up by an attorney for one of the parties to a lawsuit demanding the sworn testimony of the opposing party, a witness, or an expert intended to be called at trial by the opposition. If the person requested to testify, called the deponent, is a party to the lawsuit or someone who works for an involved party, notice of time and place of the deposition can be given to the other side's attorney, but if the witness is an independent third party, a subpoena will be served on that person to appear to testify. Depositions in criminal cases cannot be taken without the consent of the defendant.

The questions and answers are recorded by a court reporter and a transcript will be provided to either party if paid for. The deposition can be used in trial either to contradict (impeach) or refresh the memory of the witness, or be read into the record if the witness is not available.The clerk of any court of the United States within which a witness resides or where he is found, is allowed to issue a subpoena to compel the attendance of such witness, and a neglect of the witness to attend may be punished as contempt by the court whose clerk has issued the subpoena.