What can we learn from celebrity depositions? | Esquire Deposit Solutions, LLC
Is it just us, or have there been a lot of high profile filing disputes lately? It really seems like yes. And all of them, at their core, involve the rich and famous who just won’t, can’t and won’t testify under oath.
Dropping off shy celebrities is an uphill battle. They are used to getting what they want, many find it difficult to show grace under pressure, and all have the financial resources to retain high quality legal assistance to zealously advance their legal rights – or their whims, as the case may be. As a result, celebrities often behave in ways few of us can or should emulate.
Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned from their examples.
Cosby case: Breathing new life into old depositions
On June 21, a Los Angeles jury found that comedian Bill Cosby sexually abused a 16-year-old girl at the Playboy Mansion in 1975. The plaintiff, Judy Huth, now 64, was awarded 500 $000 in damages.
The case is largely notable because it is the first civil suit against Cosby to get a trial and a verdict. Aside from the grim details of the charges against Cosby, the case also offers a window into the effective use of deposition evidence in a case that was tried decades after the relevant events allegedly occurred.
Media accounts of how the trial unfolded show that attorneys for both sides are working hard to bring the deposition evidence to life.
During closing arguments, Huth’s attorney highlighted the deposition testimony by displaying excerpts on a large screen during closing arguments.
Lawyers for Cosby, who claimed on behalf of his client that Huth’s account was a fabrication, obtained Cosby’s side of the story via a videotaped deposition given in 2015. Cosby declined to attend the in-person trial and he refused to testify (or submit to a second deposition) after invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Cosby argued that his Pennsylvania criminal conviction for sexual assault against Andrea Constand was evidence that he faced criminal consequences if compelled to testify in Huth’s civil suit. That risk, he argued, remained in other jurisdictions even after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his criminal conviction in 2021.
Cosby’s attorneys also introduced testimony from Playboy Mansion owner Hugh Hefner via videotaped deposition in 2016. Hefner died in 2017.
Lesson: People believe what they see. Video testimonials and written transcripts visually highlighted on screen leave a lasting impression.
Britney Spears Conservatory: No-shows are a “no no”
The most common type of dispute regarding deposition testimony is where one party presents a plausible and legally arguable case as to why a witness’s testimony is necessary, and the opposing party presents a plausible and legally arguable case as to why that deposition should not take place. .
Then there’s the kind of dispute where one party just doesn’t show up for deposition. The deposition-related skirmish between singer Britney Spears and her father is apparently one of them.
According to court documents, Britney Spears attempted to take a deposition from her father and former curator of her financial affairs, Jamie Spears, without success. According to media reports, the elder Spears failed to show up three times for a scheduled deposition. But that didn’t stop him from recently filing a motion for an injunction ordering Britney to submit to a deposition, supposedly to elaborate on Britney’s statements on social media about her father and claims Britney has made. in an upcoming “revealing” memoir. .
The trial judge may (or may not) restore order at a July 13 hearing.
Lesson: Failure to show up for a duly noted deposition is disrespectful to other parties and the court; this often leads to fines and other penalties imposed by the courts.
Moving testimony of Lady Gaga
According to media reports, singer and actress Lady Gaga was in a state of emotional turmoil just before her 2017 deposition in a civil dispute between singer Kesha Sebert (“Kesha”) and music producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald At the time, Kesha was making allegations that Dr. Luke had sexually assaulted her (those allegations were later dropped).
After Lady Gaga said she believed Kesha’s allegations were true, Dr. Luke’s attorney questioned her about the source of that belief.
Lawyer: With respect to Mr. Gottwald himself, you have absolutely no knowledge or personal information as to any interaction between him and Ms. Sebert, correct, physical or otherwise?
Gaga: Yes, I have acquaintances… She told me that he had assaulted her.
Rather than admitting that she had no direct knowledge of the veracity of Kesha’s allegations, Lady Gaga testified that she “knew in [her] heart” that Kesha was telling the truth. She then gave a lecture to Dr. Luke’s lawyer, stating that the lawyer should be ashamed to question Kesha’s version of events or to question Lady Gaga’s lack of direct knowledge of these claims.
Lesson 1: Teaching the lawyer by asking the questions is rarely effective.
Lesson 2: Wherever possible, testimony should be limited to matters of which the deponent has direct knowledge.
Calm, professional demeanor missing from Kanye West’s depositions
By all accounts, Kanye West’s deposition in a 2013 assault charge filed against him by a paparazzi was a lesson in how not to behave during a deposition. West repeatedly swore, answered questions sarcastically, called the opposing side “scum,” and attempted to depose the deposition attorney. West then settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum.
West apparently didn’t make amends. In 2021, in another deposition taken in connection with a business dispute between West and video technology company MyChannel, West allegedly wore a “mask of Jesus”, mixed his testimony with profanity and repeatedly called the opposing lawyer “boy”.
Lesson #1: Don’t insult opposing parties or their lawyers.
Lesson 2: Don’t be delusional and claim victim status.
Lesson 3: Don’t use profanity.
Lesson #4: Don’t try to depose opposing counsel.
Lesson 5: Answer all questions honestly in a calm and professional manner.
What have we learned?
In any case, respecting the legal process and respecting all parties involved in the case is the best way to obtain a fair and effective judicial outcome.
There are likely other lessons to be learned from the celebrity deposition experiences described here. And certainly some of the lessons are, admittedly, fairly obvious. Having dodged so many depositions himself, Britney Spears’ father may find it difficult to get legal aid if Britney proves difficult to depose. Lady Gaga craned her neck to vouch for her friends’ veracity, only to have those claims later dropped. And as for Kanye West, it’s hard to imagine his behavior during depositions will benefit himself or the lawyers working on his behalf.