Supreme Judicial Court Rules

Supreme Judicial Court Rules  Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:02A: Depositions and discovery

Effective Date: 01/01/2000

(Applicable to certain civil cases)

Table of Contents

Section 1. Depositions pending action

(a) When Depositions May Be Taken  

Any party to an original civil proceeding pending in the Supreme Judicial Court, other than such a proceeding governed by the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure, or to a civil proceeding pending in the Land Court Department, other than such a proceeding governed by the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure, may take the testimony of any person, including a party, by deposition upon oral examination for the purpose of discovery or for use as evidence or for both purposes. After service of process the deposition may be taken without leave of court except that leave, granted with or without notice, must be obtained if notice of the taking is served by the plaintiff prior to the time allowed the defendant for appearance; or where in an action at law there is no reasonable likelihood that recovery will exceed five thousand dollars if the plaintiff prevails; or in an action at law there has been a hearing before an auditor. The attendance of witnesses may be compelled by the use of summons or subpoena as provided by Section 4 (a). The deposition of a person confined in prison may be taken only by leave of court on such terms as the court prescribes.

(b) Scope of Examination 

Unless otherwise ordered by the court as provided by Section 4 (b) or (d), the deponent may be examined regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending proceeding, whether it relates to the claim or defense of the examining party or to the claim or defense of any other party, including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition and location of any books, documents, or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons having knowledge of relevant facts. It is not ground for objection that the testimony will be inadmissible at the trial if the testimony sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The party taking the deposition shall not require the production or submission for inspection of any writing, plan, recording, model, photograph, or other thing prepared by or for the adverse party, his attorney, surety, indemnitor, or agent in anticipation of litigation or in preparation for trial unless the court otherwise orders on the ground that a denial of production or inspection will result in an injustice or undue hardship; nor shall the deponent be required to produce or submit for inspection any part of a writing which reflects an attorney's mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal theories, or, except as provided in Section 7 (b) the conclusions of an expert. The deponent may not be examined on or be required to produce for inspection any liability insurance policy or indemnity agreement unless such policy or agreement would be admissible in evidence at the trial of the action.

(c) Examination and Cross-Examination 

Examination and cross-examination of deponents may proceed as permitted at trial in the court where the proceeding is pending.

(d) Use of Depositions

At the trial or upon the hearing of a motion or an interlocutory proceeding, any part or all of a deposition, so far as admissible under the rules of evidence, may be used against any party who was present or represented at the taking of the deposition or who had due notice thereof, in accordance with any one of the following provisions:

(1) Any deposition may be used by any party for the purpose of contradicting or impeaching the testimony of deponent as witness.

(2) The deposition of a party or of any one who at the time of taking the deposition was an officer, director or managing agent of a public or private corporation which is a party may be used by an adverse party for any purpose.

(3) The deposition of a witness, whether or not a party, may be used by any party for any purpose if the court finds: (i) that the witness is dead; or (ii) that the witness is out of state, unless it appears that the absence of the witness was procured by the party offering the deposition; or (iii) that the witness is unable to attend or testify because of age, sickness, infirmity, or imprisonment; or (iv) that the party offering the deposition has been unable to procure the attendance of the witness by subpoena; or (v) upon application and notice, that such exceptional circumstances exist as to make it desirable, in the interest of justice and with due regard to the importance of presenting the testimony of witnesses orally in open court, to allow the deposition to be used.

(4) If only part of a deposition is offered in evidence by a party, an adverse party may require him to introduce all of it which is relevant to the part introduced, and any party may introduce any other parts. Substitution of parties does not affect the right to use depositions previously taken; and, when a proceeding in any court of the United States or of any state has been dismissed and another proceeding involving the same subject matter is afterward brought between the same parties or their representatives or successors in interest, all depositions lawfully taken and duly filed in the former proceeding may be sued in the latter as if originally taken therefor.

(e) Objections to Admissibility

Subject to the provisions of Sections 2 (b) and 5 (c), objections may be made at the trial or hearing to receiving in evidence any deposition or part thereof for any reason which would require the exclusion of the evidence if the witness were then present and testifying.

(f) Effect of Taking or Using Depositions

A party shall not be deemed to make a person his own witness for any purpose by taking his deposition. The introduction in evidence of the deposition or any part thereof for any purpose other than that of contradicting or impeaching the deponent makes the deponent the witness of the party introducing the deposition, but this shall not apply to the use by an adverse party of a deposition as described in paragraph (2) of subsection (d) of this section. At the trial or hearing any party may rebut any relevant evidence contained in a deposition whether introduced by him or by any other party.

Section 2. Persons before whom depositions may be taken

(a) Within the Commonwealth

Within the Commonwealth depositions shall be taken before an officer authorized to administer oaths by the laws of the Commonwealth or the United States, or before a person appointed by the court, in which the proceeding is pending. A person so appointed has the power to administer oaths and take testimony.

(b) Outside the Commonwealth

 Within another state, or within a territory or insular possession subject to the dominion of the United States, or in a foreign country, depositions may be taken (1) on notice before a person authorized to administer oaths in the place in which the examination is held, whether by the law thereof or by the law of the United States, or (2) before a person commissioned by the court, and a person so commissioned shall have the power by virtue of his commission to administer any necessary oath and take testimony, or (3) pursuant to letters rogatory. A commission or letters rogatory shall be issued on application and notice and on terms that are just and appropriate. It is not requisite to the issuance of a commission or letters rogatory that the taking of the deposition in any other manner is impracticable or inconvenient; and both a commission and letters rogatory may be issued in proper cases. A notice or commission may designate the person before whom the deposition is to be taken either by name or descriptive title. Letters rogatory may be addressed "To the Appropriate Authority in [here name the state, territory, or country]." Evidence obtained in a foreign country in response to letters rogatory need not be excluded merely for the reason that it is not a verbatim transcript or that the testimony was not taken under oath or for any similar departure from the requirements for depositions taken within the United States under these rules.

(c) Disqualification for Interest  

No deposition shall be taken before a person who is a relative or employee or attorney or counsel of any of the parties, or is a relative or employee or partner or associate of such attorney or counsel, or is financially interested in the proceeding.

Section 3. Stipulations regarding the taking of depositions

If the parties so stipulate in writing, depositions may be taken before any person, at any time or place, upon any notice, and in any manner and when so taken may be used like any other depositions.

Section 4. Procedures for depositions upon oral examination

(a) Notice of Examination: Time and Place  

A party desiring to take the deposition of any person upon oral examination, at least seven days before the time of the taking of the deposition, shall give notice in writing to every other party to the proceeding and file a copy of the notice in court in the proceeding. The notice shall state the time and the place for taking the deposition and the name and address of each person to be examined, if known, and, if the name is not known, a general description sufficient to identify him or the particular class or group to which he belongs. On motion of any party to the proceeding, the court may for cause shown enlarge or shorten the time. A resident of the Commonwealth shall not be required by subpoena to travel a distance of more than fifty miles from his place of residence or from his place of business or employment, unless the court otherwise orders. A nonresident of the Commonwealth may be required by subpoena to attend only within fifty miles from the place within the Commonwealth wherein he is served with a subpoena, or at such other convenient place as is fixed by an order of court. The court may regulate at its discretion the time, place and order of taking depositions as shall best serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interest of justice.

(b) Orders for the Protection of Parties and Deponents

After notice is served for taking a deposition by oral examination, upon motion seasonably made by any party or by the person to be examined and upon notice and for good cause shown, the court in which the proceeding is pending may make an order that the deposition shall not be taken, or that it may be taken only at some designated place other than that stated in the notice, or that it may be taken only on written interrogatories, or that certain matters shall not be inquired into, or that the scope of the examination shall be limited to certain matters, or that the examination shall be held with no one present except the parties to the proceeding and their officers or counsel, or that the deposition be sealed and opened only by order of the court, or that secret processes, developments, or research need not be disclosed, or that the parties shall simultaneously file specified documents or information enclosed in sealed envelopes to be opened as directed by the court; or the court may make any other order which justice requires to protect the party or witness from annoyance, undue expense, embarrassment, or oppression. The court may in its discretion where notice is given of the taking of depositions outside the state and at great distances from the place where the case is to be tried, require the party taking the deposition to pay the traveling expenses of the opposite party and of his attorney where their attendance is reasonably necessary at the taking of said deposition; and where it appears that the witness whose deposition is sought is under the control of the party taking the deposition, the court may require such witness to be brought within the state and his deposition taken there. The power of the court under this rule shall be exercised with liberality toward the accomplishment of its purpose to protect parties and witnesses.

(c) Record of Examination; Oath; Objections

The officer before whom the deposition is to be taken shall put the witness on oath and shall personally, or by someone acting under his direction and in his presence, record the testimony of the witness. The testimony shall be taken stenographically and transcribed unless the parties agree otherwise. The cost thereof shall be borne by the party taking the deposition, except that the court may for cause shown order the cost of stenographer or transcription equitably apportioned among the parties. All objections made at the time of the examination to the qualifications of the officer taking the deposition, or to the manner of taking it, or to the evidence presented, or to the conduct of any party, and any other objection to the proceedings, shall be noted by the officer upon the deposition. Evidence objected to shall be taken subject to the objections. In lieu of participating in the oral examination, parties may transmit written interrogatories to the officer, who shall propound them to the witness and record the answers verbatim.

(d) Motion to Terminate or Limit Examination

At any time during the taking of the deposition, on motion of any party or of the deponent and upon a showing that the examination is being conducted in bad faith or in such manner as unreasonably to annoy, embarrass, or oppress the deponent or party, any justice of the court in which the action is pending may order the officer conducting the examination to cease forthwith from taking the deposition, or may limit the scope and manner of the taking of the deposition as provided in subdivision (b). If the order made terminates the examination, it shall be resumed thereafter only upon the order of the court in which the proceeding is pending. Upon demand of the objecting party or deponent, the taking of the deposition shall be suspended for the time necessary to make a motion for an order. In granting or refusing such order the court may impose upon either party or upon the witness the requirement to pay such costs or expenses as the court may deem reasonable.

(e) Submission to Witness; Changes; Signing

When the testimony is fully transcribed the deposition shall be submitted to the witness for examination and shall be read to or by him, unless such examination and reading are waived by the witness and by the parties. Any changes in form or substance which the witness desires to make shall be entered upon the deposition by the officer with a statement of the reasons given by the witness for making them. The deposition shall then be signed by the witness, unless the parties by stipulation waive the signing or the witness is ill or cannot be found or refuses to sign. If the deposition is not signed by the witness, the officer shall sign it and state on the record the fact of the waiver or of the illness or absence of the witness or the fact of the refusal to sign together with the reason, if any, given therefor; and the deposition may then be used as fully as though signed, unless on a motion to suppress under Section 5 (d) the court holds that the reasons given for the refusal to sign require rejection of the deposition in whole or in part.

(f) Certification and Filing by Officer; Copies; Notice of Filing

(1) The officer shall certify on the deposition that the witness was duly sworn by him and that the deposition is a true record of the testimony given by the witness. He shall then securely seal the deposition in an envelope indorsed with the title of the proceeding and marked "Deposition of [here insert name of witness]" and shall promptly deliver or mail it to the clerk of the court in which the proceeding is pending. The parties by stipulation may waive transcription and filing of the deposition.

(2) Upon payment of reasonable charges therefor, the officer shall furnish a copy of the deposition to any party or to the deponent.

(3) The party taking the deposition shall give prompt notice of its filing to all other parties.

(4) Upon being filed, the deposition shall be open to inspection unless otherwise ordered by the court.

(g) Failure to Attend or to Serve Summons or Subpoena; Expenses

(1) If the party giving the notice of the taking of a deposition fails to attend and proceed therewith and another party attends in person or by attorney pursuant to the notice, the court may order the party giving the notice to pay to such other party the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred by him and his attorney in so attending, including reasonable attorney's fees.

(2) If the party giving the notice of the taking of a deposition of a witness fails to serve a summons or subpoena upon him and the witness because of such failure does not attend, and if another party attends in person or by attorney because he expects the deposition of that witness to be taken, the court may order the party giving the notice to pay to such other party the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred by him and his attorney in so attending, including reasonable attorney's fees.

(h) Engagements of Counsel

The engagement of counsel at the taking of a deposition shall be recognized to the extent that the court in which the proceeding is pending shall order upon application in writing to the court not less than three days prior to the time for the taking of a deposition.

Section 5. Effect of errors and irregularities in depositions

(a) As to Notice

All errors and irregularities in the notice for taking a deposition are waived unless written objection is promptly served upon the party giving the notice.

(b) As to Disqualification of Officer

Objection to taking a deposition because of disqualification of the officer before whom it is to be taken is waived unless made before the taking of the deposition begins or as soon thereafter as the disqualification becomes known or could be discovered with reasonable diligence.

(c) As to Taking of Deposition

(1) Objections to the competency of a witness or to the competency, relevancy, or materiality of testimony are not waived by failure to make them before or during the taking of the deposition, unless the ground of the objection is one which might have been obviated or removed if presented at that time.

(2) Errors and irregularities occurring at the oral examination in the manner of taking the deposition, in the form of the questions or answers, in the oath or affirmation, or in the conduct of parties and errors of any kind which might be obviated, removed, or cured if promptly presented, are waived unless seasonable objection thereto is made at the taking of the deposition.

(d) As to Completion and Return of Deposition

Errors and irregularities in the manner in which the testimony is transcribed or the deposition is prepared, signed, certified, sealed, indorsed, transmitted, filed, or otherwise dealt with by the officer under Section 4 are waived unless a motion to suppress the deposition or some part thereof is made with reasonable promptness after such defect is, or with due diligence might have been, ascertained.

Section 6. Discovery and production of documents and things for inspection, copying, or photographing.

Upon motion of any party showing good cause therefor and upon notice to all other parties, and subject to the provisions of Section 4 (b), the court may (1) order any party to produce and permit the inspection and copying or photographing, by or on behalf of the moving party, of any designated documents, papers, books, accounts, letters, photographs, objects, or tangible things, not privileged, which constitute or contain evidence relating to any of the matters within the scope of examination permitted by Section 1 (b) and which are in his possession, custody, or control; or (2) order any party to permit entry upon designated land or other property in his possession or control for the purpose of inspecting, measuring, surveying, testing, or photographing the property or any designated object or operation thereon within the scope of examination permitted by Section 1 (b). The order shall specify the time, place, and manner of making the inspection and taking the copies and photographs and may prescribe such terms and conditions as are just.

Section 7. Physical and mental examination of persons

(a) Order for Examination

In a proceeding in which the mental or physical condition of a party is in controversy, or may affect the conduct of the proceedings, the court in which the proceeding is pending may order him to submit to a physical or mental examination by a physician. The order may be made only on motion for good cause shown and upon notice to the party to be examined and to all other parties and shall specify the time, place, manner, conditions, and scope of the examination and the person or persons by whom it is to be made.

(b) Report of Findings

(1) If requested by the person examined, the party causing the examination to be made shall deliver to him a copy of a detailed written report of the examining physician setting out his findings and conclusions. After such request and delivery the party causing the examination to be made shall be entitled upon request to receive from the party examined a like report of any examination, previously or thereafter made, of the same mental or physical condition. If the party examined refuses to deliver such report the court on motion and notice may make an order requiring delivery on such terms as are just, and if a physician fails or refuses to make such a report the court may exclude his testimony if offered at the trial.

(2) By requesting and obtaining a report of the examination so ordered or by taking the deposition of the examiner, the party examined waives any privilege he may have in that proceeding or any other involving the same controversy, regarding the testimony of every other person who has examined or may thereafter examine him in respect of the same mental or physical condition.

Section 8. Refusal to make discovery; consequences

(a) Refusal to Answer

If a party or other deponent refuses to answer any questions propounded upon oral examination, the examination shall be completed on other matters or adjourned, as the proponent of the question may prefer. Thereafter, on reasonable notice to all persons affected thereby, he may apply to the court for an order compelling an answer. If the motion is granted and if the court finds that the refusal was without substantial justification the court shall require the refusing party or deponent and the party or attorney advising the refusal or either of them to pay to the examining party the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred in obtaining the order, including reasonable attorney's fees. If the motion is denied and if the court finds that the motion was made without substantial justification, the court shall require the examining party or the attorney advising the motion or both of them to pay to the refusing party or witness the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred in opposing the motion, including reasonable attorney's fees.

(b) Failure to Comply with Order

(1) Contempt

If a party or other witness refuses to be sworn or refuses to answer any question after being directed to do so by the court, the refusal may be considered a contempt of court.

(2) Other Consequences

If any party or an officer or managing agent of a party refuses to obey an order made under subdivision (a) of this section requiring him to answer designated questions, or an order made under Section 6 to produce any document or other thing for inspection, copying, or photographing or to permit it to be done, or to permit entry upon land or other property, or an order under Section 7 requiring him to submit to a physical or mental examination, the court may make such orders in regard to the refusal as are just, and among others the following:

(i) An order that the matters regarding which the questions were asked, or the character or description of the thing or land, or the contents of the paper, or the physical or mental condition of the party, or any other designated facts shall be taken to be established for the purposes of the proceeding in accordance with the claim of the party obtaining the order;

(ii) An order refusing to allow the disobedient party to support or oppose designated claims or defenses, or prohibiting him from introducing in evidence designated documents or things or items of testimony, or from introducing evidence of physical or mental condition;

(iii) An order striking out pleadings or parts thereof, or staying further proceedings until the order is obeyed, or dismissing the proceeding or any part thereof, or rendering a judgment by default against the disobedient party;

(iv) In lieu of any of the foregoing orders or in addition thereto, an order directing the arrest of any party or agent of a party for disobeying any of such orders except an order to submit to a physical or mental examination.

(c) Failure of a Party to Attend or Serve Answers

If a party or an officer or managing agent of a party wilfully fails to appear before the officer who is to take his deposition, after being served with a proper notice, the court on motion and notice may strike out all or any part of any pleading of that party, or dismiss the proceeding or any part thereof, or enter a judgment by default against that party.

(d) Expenses Against the Commonwealth

Expenses and attorney's fees are not to be imposed upon the Commonwealth under this section.

Section 9. Costs on depositions

The taxing of costs in the taking of depositions shall be subject to the discretion of the court. No costs shall be allowed unless the court finds that the taking of the deposition was reasonably necessary, whether or not the deposition was actually used at trial. Taxable costs may include the costs of service of summons or subpoena upon the deponent, the reasonable fee of the officer before whom the deposition is taken, the stenographer's reasonable fee for attendance, and the costs of transcription or such part thereof as the court may fix.

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