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A deponent is the individual whose deposition, or sworn, out-of-court testimony, is taken during the discovery process. The deponent can either be a party to the case, a witness who will later testify at trial, or anyone with knowledge of facts relating to the case. 

  • For example, if a company is being sued, an employee of the company could be the deponent.  

The deponent’s attendance may be compelled by subpoena. Depositions are taken as oral testimony, where the deponent is asked questions or asked to describe events. The testimony is typically reduced to a written transcript for later use in court or for discovery purposes.  Because the deponent’s statements are made under oath, they can be helpful to prove perjury if the deponent later testifies at trial and changes the testimony from that given at the deposition. Depositions are conducted outside court by the lawyers representing each party in the case, and there is no judge present to supervise the deposition. The deponent will often have his or her own lawyer present at the deposition. The deponent’s lawyer can object to certain lines of questioning, for example if a matter is protected by a privilege such as the attorney-client privilege

A similar and sometimes interchangeable term is an affiant, which is someone who swears to a declaration of written testimony, which is called an affidavit.

A deponent can produce a deposition under different procedures of both civil law and criminal law. The main rules that guide the process of taking a deposition from a deponent in federal cases are Rule 30 and Rule 31 under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as well as Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

[Last updated in September of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]