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Celebrity cook Paula Deen is in hot water due to a deposition admission to using the “N” word at some point in her past. She recalls “probably” using the negative epithet when telling her husband about an armed robbery she once experienced. Additionally, she stated in the deposition that she may have used the term when recalling conversations carried on by black employees at her restaurants.

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Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers, owner of Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster Bar, were accused by a former employee, Lisa Jackson, of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment caused by violent and racially motivated tirades. A lawsuit against the restaurant, Deen and Hiers was filed in Superior Court in Savannah, Georgia, but was moved to Federal District Court upon a motion by the respondents, Deen and Hiers.

What Does This Mean? :

As previously explained, during pre-trial activities, both the prosecutor and defense attorneys exchange requested information, documents, videos, etc. to adequately prepare for a trial. This is called the “Discovery” phase. During the Discovery Phase, both sides also hold what are called “Depositions” to take the testimony of plaintiffs (petitioners), defendants (respondents) and any witnesses and experts who may have pertinent information to assist either side of the lawsuit. During the deposition, in an effort to set up evidence to be used at trial that Paula Deen has used racially insensitive terms in the past, therefore, she, by a preponderance of the evidence, may have used it against employees as well, namely Lisa Jackson at some time during her employment at Uncle Bubba’s. She admitted to it in her deposition, therefore, it will be brought up at the trial unless her attorney’s seek to have it struck from the records. If Paula seeks to back track on ever using the term while on the witness stand during the trial, her deposition testimony will be offered to prove her to contradict her previous testimony.

How Does This Affect You? :

Discovery happens in both criminal and civil cases that are litigated in the courts. This includes, but is not limited to, the exchanging of documents (i.e. – medical reports, phone records, bank statements, etc) and depositions of witnesses (i.e. – questioning witnesses before trial about a particular event so you know what their testimony will be in court). It is during this phase that all information should be shared so each side may fully prepare for trial and also to determine if an actual case or cause of action exists. What you admit to during a deposition can be presented as evidence during trial. While it may be damaging, it is best to admit to everything up front so your counsel may have time to prepare to counter opposing counsel’s arguments. Additionally, everything you admit to or testify to in a deposition may be brought up in trial, and if you are a celebrity, can become horrible press against your brand. We wonder how Miss Oprah feels about all of this…

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