Another example of lawyers behaving badly at depositions. A Florida lawyer, Robert J. Ratiner was sanctioned for his conduct at a deposition. See ABA Journal report. His latest sanction is that he cannot attend a deposition alone for the next two years unless the deposition is video taped. As reminder, depositions is the event in which lawyers for both sides to a civil lawsuit can question a particular witness. There is no judge. Only the lawyers, the parties to the lawsuit, one witness and a court reporter attend. The court reporter records the testimony. Often, egos, tempers and emotions are also present.
At his latest infraction in 2007, Mr. Ratiner lost control when the opposing counsel attempted to put an exhibit sticker on Mr. Ratiner’s laptop. The opposing counsel was apparently trying to turn Mr. Ratiner’s laptop into a deposition exhibit. Mr. Ratiner briefly touched the opposing counsel’s hand and then attempted to run around the table toward the opposing counsel. According to a referree who investigated the incident, Mr. Ratiner then tore up the exhibit sticker (typically about 2" by 2") tossed the little pieces toward the opposing counsel. He leaned in toward the opposing counsel and berated him. Mr. Ratiner’s own consultant told him to take a Xanax. The court reporter exclaimed that she could not "work like this."
The Florida Supreme Court described Mr. Ratiner’s conduct as an embarrassment to all members of the Florida bar. As I have mentioned before, extreme conduct like this is very rare in my experience. But, lawyers do behave badly at depositions. Not too long ago, I had to fuss a bit at one lawyer for attempting to provoke my client unnecessarily. There is no jury and no judge at a deposition. The things that force us to behave are not present.
Like doctors, we lawyers also say "first do no harm" to your client. It does sound like Mr. Ratiner overlooked this maxim and did substantial harm to his client’s case with his outburst.