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DECEMBER 2013 - Levity
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"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 third day. 

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. 

Although 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.  

The Chinese 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 hotel room.   

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

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