In June of this year The United States District Court for the Northern District of California adopted “Guidelines for Professional Conduct” These guidelines are a very good resource for new plaintiff lawyers.
For example, new plaintiff personal injury litigators working to set up oral depositions of corporate employees for the first time should review both the Northern District Civil Local Rule 30-1 and Professional Conduct Guideline #9. These rules are applicable to noticing oral depositions. Noticing oral depositions of corporate employees can be a frustrating process; however there are some preliminary steps you can take to make the process more smoothly.
For a plaintiff the power to take oral depositions is one of the most useful tools we have in formal discovery. This is an area of discovery where planning and finesse can go a long way. It is not a wise move to pick dates you like, that fall within the statutory notice period, demand that your depositions go forward as noticed, and then file a motion to compel if the deponent does not show.
Beyond the simple notice requirements we must also, keep in mind some additional steps that need to be taken before choosing dates, times and places to notice our depositions. Both Rule 30-1 and Guideline #9 remind the noticing party of the need to be cooperative in scheduling oral depositions. Working together to find mutually agreeable times and locations for all involved is how experienced litigators work to set up oral depositions.
With these rules of civility in mind, here are three practical steps to start the process of setting up your oral depositions of corporate employees.
- Shortly after serving your first round of written discovery, send a letter to defense counsel setting forth your desire to take oral depositions and identify the names of the witnesses and categories of persons most knowledgeable you would like to depose.
- Include in your letter a number of proposed dates and locations that work for your calendar. Allow one or two weeks for a response. Hopefully you will get a response and start a collaborative discussion of good dates, times and locations that work for you, opposing counsel and the witnesses.
- If no response is forthcoming, give your opposition a reminder call and send a second letter confirming your attempts to meet and confer on good dates for the depositions. The two letters you have now sent are the key pieces of evidence you will need to attach to your declaration, if you are forced to file a motion to compel attendance at deposition.
These three steps are a good way to start the process of being cooperative when noticing depositions at mutually agreeable times and locations. If you take this path and run into uncooperative counsel, when you do attempt to compel compliance with your formally noticed deposition, you will be in a much stronger position, and your motion to compel should be well received by the court.