New York Personal Injury Law Blog » Stupid Lawyer Questions


July 31st, 2015

Stupid Lawyer Questions – Part 1

StupidLawyerQuestionsSince lawyers like to share war stories, I thought I’d try something new and collect a few, if I found humor or abject stupidity in them. Abject stupidity includes asking the most useless questions possible at a deposition  — so bad an 8-year-old wouldn’t do it.

Wait!  Did I just offend some veterans by using the phrase “war stories” in the context of this trifling post? Wait again! Did I just upset someone by failing to publish a “trigger warning” before using the phrase “war stories?”

That preceding digression exists for a reason — this post is about language. Specifically, the unthinking use of it in the context of litigation.

This is inspired in large part by two things: The first is the collected trial quotes of the late U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyery, at Say What?! The second is my own experience some years back in a 7-day deposition — a medical malpractice case dealing with a failure to properly treat an infection in the foot to a diabetic — where the lawyer asked:

When you started as a sanitation worker 20 years ago, what route did you work?

For the purposes of this series, if it ever progresses past this posting, I’m aiming for funny/ludicrous/moronic and utterly irrelevant.

Don’t ask me if there will be a part 2, ’cause I’m not as good as Judge Buchmeyer.

The names of the the parties and defense lawyers have been redacted to protect the guilty. All are original to this site, collected from friends. The first three:


Submitted  anonymously:

Q: Your mother and father moved to Chicago?

A: Yes.

Q: Your Father died?

A: Yes.

Q: Did your parents move to Chicago before or after your father died?


Submitted by  Mark Bower:

On the FOURTH day of plaintiff’s EBT with no end in sight, the mother testified that she had some (possibly relevant) papers in a black box on a shelf in her hallway closet. The defense attorney did not ask what the papers were, or what they said. Instead, she asked:

Which shelf?

What are the dimensions of the shelf?

How high is the shelf off the floor?

What are the dimensions of the box?

It finally ended when she asked “What color is the black box?”

At that point, I threw her out of my office. The loudly-threatened motion to bring the mom back for a continued deposition never materialized.


Submitted by Jon Rapport:

  1. What hospital were you born in?
  2. Methodist
  3. Is that in Brooklyn, New York?
  4. Yes.
  5. Are you a United States citizen?


3 thoughts on “Stupid Lawyer Questions – Part 1

  1. Not to be a dick or anything, but there are scenarios where this sequence might be appropriate:

    Q: What hospital were you born in?
    A: Methodist
    Q: Is that in Brooklyn, New York?
    A: Yes.
    Q: Are you a United States citizen?

    If, for example, A had joined DAESH and some element of the case were a possible renounced citizenship. In that case, a minor change to:

    Q: Are you STILL a United States citizen?

    would suffice. And of course, one could always, for further amusement of the jury:

    Q: And is Brooklyn, New York, part of the United States?

    My wife was born in that hospital, so I’m guessing that it is. At least so she claims.

  2. What follows is not example of stupid questioning, but rather of extreme bureaucratic bollocks by a witness.

    Journalist Duncan Campbell was charged with espionage based on his 1988 publication of inquiries into the super-duper-top secret signals surveillance apparatus in the UK called Eschelon. The case was eventually thrown out, but not before the following exchange had taken place between the defense and a witness for the UK security establishment.

    Q: Is that the name of your unit?
    A: I cannot answer that question, that is a secret.
    Q: Is that the board which passersby on the main road see outside your unit’s base?
    A: Yes.
    Q: Read it out to the jury, please.
    A: I cannot do that. It is a secret.

    I assume that if the barrister had then read the unit name out to the jury (which they could see anyway), the witness could have shot him?

  3. UPDATE: it occurred to me later that had either the witness or the counsel read out the name of the super-duper-secret site in open court then that data would have been entered into the trial transcript which would then have made it visible to Vlad (“Abs of Steel!”) Putin, and thus potentially a breach of security protocol.

    I prefer to believe that the witness was just an A-Hole.