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Lessons From Robin Thicke: Deposition Don'ts

By Mark Wilson, Esq. | Last updated on

You know, you'd think that lawyers would have learned by now: Don't ask a question unless you're sure of the answer. Then again, a silly answer might be just what you were hoping for.

Robin Thicke, the vanguard of our proud nation's rich cultural traditions, preemptively sued the estate of Marvin Gaye to ward off claims that Thicke plagiarized elements of Gaye's 1977 "Got to Give It Up" in Thicke's hit song "Blurred Lines."

The Hollywood Reporter reported Monday on what Thicke had to say about the alleged infringement at a deposition. Here are a few lessons for lawyers:

The 'I Was Too High to Do It' Defense

Thicke's defense?

I was high on Vicodin and alcohol when I showed up at the studio. So my recollection is when we made the song, I thought I wanted -- I -- I wanted to be more involved than I actually was by the time, nine months later, it became a huge hit and I wanted credit. So I started kind of convincing myself that I was a little more part of it than I was and I -- because I didn't want him -- I wanted some credit for this big hit. But the reality is, is that Pharrell had the beat and he wrote almost every single part of the song.

If you thought Thicke's class stopped at singing a catchy tune about rape, you were wrong: He managed to admit that he was whacked out of his gourd while writing the song and throw Pharrell Williams under the bus at the same time. The technique works to get Thicke tossed off the case: "Your Honor, I couldn't have infringed because I was too high to be involved!"

Don't Be a Bieber, Either

It should go without saying that witnesses should be prepared for depositions. Of course, "prepared" doesn't just mean "do you have the facts?" It also means informing the witness that he has to comport himself in a way that doesn't come off as ... let's call it "Bieberesque." Judges and juries, who may end up on the other end of these videos, won't take kindly to that behavior.

OK, OK, beyond celebrity foibles, depositions can also devolve into nightmares when overly aggressive attorneys start objecting to everything. Take, for example, a recent deposition about alleged infringement of airplane vacuum toilet bowls: The court actually awarded sanctions to the other side after the attorney continued to object to terms like "what," "sales," marketing," "does," "use," and "offer." Discovery isn't supposed to be about stonewalling (even though many attorneys apparently think that it is).

So, prepare your client for depositions, make sure your client behaves, and don't be that lawyer who wants to clarify what "education" means.

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