By Jedidiah McKeehan
One part of virtually every case is what lawyers call “discovery.” What do lawyers mean when they use this term? That is a fairly large and vague term. It could mean anything.
Discovery is the part of a case where you discover what evidence and witnesses the other side has that they will be using against you at trial. Wait a minute, we get to discover what they will use against us before trial? Yes!
Very old attorneys will talk about a time when discovery was not a part of cases. You would just show up at trial with your witnesses and the other side would have their witnesses and you would be hearing what the other side has to say for the first time at the trial.
Now we have discovery which is designed to help parties ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of their case before trial. What they discover may motivate them to settle. My old boss used to describe it by saying, “Imagine we are playing poker, and I get to look at the cards in your hand, you get to look at the cards in my hand, and then we both know how to play our cards.”
Okay, I have described the purpose of discovery but what is it? Discovery is made up of written questions, they are called interrogatories and request for production of documents.
You mail whatever questions you want to be answered to the other party and they must truthfully answer those questions and send the answers back to the person asking the questions within 30 days. Do people lie in their answers? Sure, all of the time. But people are at least SUPPOSED to answer truthfully.
Depositions are where you ask questions of the other party under oath before trial. These are the scenes on tv where you see a lawyer in a conference room grilling the other party with hours and hours of questions. The law allows lawyers to ask about anything that might be even remotely relevant to the case, so almost nothing is off-limits for being questioned.
Both the written questions and the depositions allow you to prepare for the trial because you will know what the other party will say because you have already asked them what they will say. And if their story changes at trial you can bring up how what they said previously was different and question them on whether they are telling the truth now or they were telling the truth during their deposition.
Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties. He works in many areas, including divorce, custody, criminal, and personal injury. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.