Attorneys strive to be zealous advocates for their clients. Not surprisingly, when defending depositions, attorneys are often tempted to object to questions that they perceive to be damaging to their client’s case, even if the question itself is not improper. Attorneys should be cautious, however, to avoid making excessive objections that are not likely to be sustained.
In a recent employment discrimination lawsuit, attorneys representing the defendant made hundreds of objections over the course of four depositions that the plaintiff characterized as frivolous and obstructionist. For instance, in one of the depositions, the defending counsel made 190 objections, including 80 to form, irrespective of whether there was a legitimate basis to support the objection. The plaintiff claimed that counsel’s conduct rose to the level of violating ethics rules, and filed a motion for sanctions with the court seeking attorney’s fees and costs in connection with the depositions. While the judge has not yet entered a decision whether to impose sanctions in this particular case, there are many other instances of courts imposing sanctions where attorneys make excessive objections or improperly coach a witness.
Attorneys are expected to object to deposition questions that are poorly phrased or susceptible to different interpretations. However, attorneys must be cognizant not to cross the line into coaching of a witness or continuously interject without legitimate grounds. Attorneys who make excessive objections are likely to draw the ire of the court, and may expose themselves to sanctions that could ultimately damage their client’s standing in the case.