"A Little Levity Please!" Series
Editor’s Note: Let’s face it – the practice of law can sometimes be a little stressful. Even if you’re the type who thrives on stress, it can still be good to crack a smile every now and again. In this "A Little Levity Please!” series, WLALA will feature stories designed to bring a little humor to your day. Submissions welcome from all members!
My Most Memorable and Unusual Deposition
By Karyn Abbott, Certified Court Reporter
I have been a court reporter for twenty-five-plus years, and
I have witnessed a plethora of human behavior; some heart-warming, some deplorable and
some just plain funny.I took a trip down memory lane when Heather Stern asked me
if I would write an article about my most interesting deposition. I have reported many
celebrities’ depositions, including Cher, Nick Nolte, Stevie Wonder, Sharon
Stone and Lou Rawls, which were all quite exciting, but nothing bizarre transpired. The following is by far the most unusual
deposition I’ve ever reported.
I was engaged to
report a deposition in Taipai, Taiwan several years ago. My client flew me toTaipai but hired
a local experienced Taiwanese interpreter (or so we thought) to translate the testimony. The
witness was a wealthy Chinese gentleman confined to a wheelchair and housebound. My client represented one of the man’s sons
who was suing his other siblings to prove his
father was not competent to manage his own affairs and to become his guardian. I stayed at a
lovely hotel and toured the city the first two days I was there. The deposition was scheduled for the
The witness and
his wife (the plaintiff’s stepmother) lived two hours outside Taipei. For some reason that was
never clear to me we rode a public bus instead of traveling by car to the countryside. The local people transported their chickens,
rabbits, ducks and other small livestock in
cages via the bus into the city marketplace,
and then whatever was not sold was taken back to
their farms with them on the bus. As you
can imagine, this was not a luxurious coach. A crate of quacking ducks sat on the seat
next to me, and my reporting equipment was on the
floor. It was very hot and smelly, and
our air conditioning was open windows.
Finally we arrived at the
village and trudged to the house. I was
a complete wind blown bedraggled mess and had
blisters from the long trek up a dirt road.
supposedly this was a very wealthy family, apparently they wanted to hide their
affluence. It was one step removed from a shack, although it did have
electricity and running
water. I was directed to sit on a pink
naugahyde sofa (I kid you not.) with several
springs sticking out through the vinyl.
This was an impossible situation for me, and I
finally communicated that I HAD to sit in a chair. A very rickety one was then provided.
The witness’s wife offered us a plate of strange, unidentifiable food and some green liquid in a glass. I politely declined.
interpreter arrived, and we began the deposition. The interpreter must have lived in the
village as he did not ride on the bus with us.
It didn’t take long to realize that he was not a
certified or even an experienced
interpreter as he did not translate in the first
person but instead used "he,” which was an absolute nightmare for me, and I had to
interrupt many times to clarify the testimony.
The witness was extremely emotional, and the translation was
sometimes incoherent. I never figured out if it was because the witness really was
incompetent or because the interpreter was the incompetent one.
After about an hour it became so unbearably hot that the son
opened several screenless windows and the front door.
The air felt wonderful, and I was feeling less faint, but I was still coping with the flies and gnats. Then the "visitors”
arrived – a flock of chickens and several large white birds. This seemed to be a normal occurrence as the
family didn’t try to shoo them back outside.
They even threw some corn on the floor for them to eat. Everyone seemed oblivious to my reporting difficulties. Something startled the white birds, and they
became agitated and flew around the room landing on the furniture
and squawking. Alfred Hitchcock’s "The Birds” was flitting through my mind.
I was trying very hard to remain professional and calm &
collected and just politely interrupting when the cacophony of twittering and squawking
fowl became so loud that I couldn’t hear or concentrate on the testimony. But when a large white bird perched on my
steno machine and indicated he had no intention of leaving, I decided I had had
enough and had to assert myself. I asked
for a recess and told my client it was absolutely impossible for me to produce
an accurate transcript under these conditions and I was not trained to report
in a barn yard. A heated ten-minute
discussion in Chinese took place, and miraculously some small children who must
have been hiding in another room appeared and shouted and waved their hands and
the birds flew away. The deposition was concluded, and everyone smiled and
bowed to one another. Then another hike
to the bus stop, and I returned to Taipei and my wonderful air-conditioned
My client prevailed in the case, and I like to think that my
transcript was the contributing factor. But then
again I will never know. Whenever I
report a difficult deposition now and feel overwhelmed, I remember
my Taiwan experience, and all of a sudden everything seems so easy.
Karyn Abbott is a Certified Court Reporter and has owned Karyn Abbott & Associates, a court reporting and legal video firm, for over 25 years. She has been a WLALA member for several years and is an active participant in the WLALA Golf League.
*If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact the WLALA Communications Officer, Heather Stern at firstname.lastname@example.org.