In a recent opinion, the court of appeals held that a trial court has no authority to annul a marriage by summary judgment. Hill v. Durette, (N.C. App, March 19, 2019). This case reminds us that while the Rules of Civil Procedure apply to domestic relations cases generally, there are significant limitations on the use of rules that relieve the court of the obligation to make findings of fact based on evidence presented to the court before entering certain types of domestic orders.
Depositions are primarily a discovery tool. When it comes to trial, live witness testimony is “more desirable,” Investors Title Ins. Co. v. Herzig, 330 N.C. 681, 690 (1992), and Rule of Civil Procedure 43 states that, “[i]n all trials the testimony of witnesses shall be taken orally in open court, unless otherwise provided by these rules.” In “sharply limited” circumstances, however, deposition testimony may be used at trial, Warren v. City of Asheville, 74 N.C. App. 402, 408 (1985), and Rule 32 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure sets out (most of) those circumstances.
Under Rule 32, deposition testimony may be used at trial if it meets three criteria:
- It is being used against a party who was present or represented at or had reasonable notice of the deposition;
- It falls within one of the categories in Rule 32(a)(1) through (a)(4); and
- It is admissible under the Rules of Evidence (applied as though the witness were present and testifying).
Last month John Oliver made headlines across the country when his TV show, Last Week Tonight, did an episode focusing on common practices by debt buyers. To illustrate how easy it is to buy consumer debt, Oliver formed a debt-buying company (“CARP”) after complying with legal requirements in Mississippi: paying $50 to the State and appointing himself Chairman of the Board. The new company set up a very basic website and was quickly offered an opportunity to buy $3 million of consumer medical debt for $60,000, along with the names, addresses, and social security numbers of almost 9,000 alleged debtors. At the end of the episode Oliver— in his role as CARP Chairman– forgave the debt by pushing a giant red button. You can watch the excitement, and perhaps learn something about debt-buying, by going to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxUAntt1z2c .Continue Reading