| by Heather Duncan, Esq.
Taking the deposition of a child can be a daunting task. Below are some of the recommendations of the National Court Reporters Association regarding special steps that may be taken by both the attorney and the court reporter when dealing with the testimony of a “child of tender age.”
Administering an oath to a child can be a tricky thing. The child may not understand what he or she is being asked to do, or the child may become frightened or severely shy if asked to raise the right hand or when becoming suddenly aware that he or she is now the center of attention, and then may refuse to talk to anyone at all.
The lawyers may try to determine the child’s competency to take an oath by asking questions like, “Can you tell me what it means to tell the truth?, What do you think will happen if you tell a lie?, If I say my shirt is red, am I telling the truth or telling a lie?” and so on, in an effort to determine whether the child knows the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie.
California sets out two basic forms of the oath to be given at a deposition: “Do you promise that everything you tell here today will be the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” or “You do solemnly state that you will tell the truth, so help you God.” Before administering the oath to a child it is recommended that the court reporter ask the lawyer if he or she would prefer one of the traditional oaths or a simpler “Do you promise to tell the truth?”
Keep in mind that determining whether the child knows the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie is not the responsibility of the court reporter, it is the responsibility of the judge or lawyers.