Brief Fact Summary.
International Business Machines Corporation petitioned for a writ of mandamus after the court required opposing counsel or a stenographer be present when opposing witnesses are interviewed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A trial judge may not restrict a party’s ability to interview opposing witnesses.
The district court required the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) to have opposing counsel or a stenographer present when interviewing adverse witnesses. IBM filed a petition for writ of mandamus after having difficulty interviewing two witnesses under the circumstances set by the district court.
Whether a trial judge may restrict a party’s ability to interview opposing witnesses?
No. IBM’s writ of mandamus was granted because the orders of the district court prevented attorneys from organizing their facts prior to presenting the case to the judge. Similarly, it placed an undue burden on attorneys to coordinate with the schedules of witnesses, opposing counsel, and stenographers.
Interviewing witnesses is an integral component of the attorney’s work product along with trial preparation because it allows legal counsel to prepare the case for the fact finder. Interviews allow witnesses to share facts of the case and allow attorneys to decide whether or not they will use their testimony at trial. Interviews also allow witnesses to clarify their testimony, allowing the judicial process to be conducted in an organized manner.