In My First Plea, the lawyers talk about the very first time they were allowed to speak in court, a moment they often remember vividly. Anouk Rosielle felt a moment of blind panic during her first witness interview, but she received help from an unexpected side.
Related Dispute Resolution, Arbitration and Litigation at Dentons
Date of swearing in: December 11, 2007
“My first witness interrogation was immediately an exceptional affair, even if I did not know it at the time. I had just started as a lawyer when my boss asked me to cooperate in a rogatory commission: hearing witnesses in foreign proceedings. This case concerned a client involved in proceedings in the United States in which Dutch witnesses were to be heard. The US court then submits a formal request to the Dutch court to facilitate the hearing here.
Our American colleagues called on us to oversee this request. After all, they did not know the course of events at the Dutch court. In freshman year, I wasn’t either, but of course Americans didn’t need to know that. Letters of Request fall under the Hague Evidence Convention, which contains fairly clear rules on the process. I’ve come a long way with this.
My boss and I served as a bridge between the Americans and the Dutch court. I discussed all US issues with the registry: can a stenographer be present? And an interpreter? Can it be registered? The court took a flexible stance. Almost any request could be granted, so the Americans were happy. My role was purely practical. During the interrogations, only our American colleagues spoke. I had nothing to say. Luckily, because I had never been to a witness hearing before – let alone the American version of it.
Still, I was shocked when my boss was called on another case the morning of the first interrogation. There was no more time to invite a colleague. “You’ll manage on your own,” my boss assured me. I just assumed. Besides, we had everything arranged. What could happen?”
“Even though I had nothing to do, I wore a gown during interrogations. Great, it felt like I was doing this more often. I didn’t know where to sit in court. Just in time, I remembered a piece of advice an employee once gave me that I now often pass on to interns. As I walked in, I asked, “I’m here for the candidate. Where do you want me?” It worked: I could walk to the designated spot in the room. From now on, all I had to do was sit and listen.
The interrogation began and our American colleagues put the Dutch witnesses to the test. I opened my eyes. The opposing lawyers kept shouting “object!”, to which the Dutch court replied with “canceled !”. I felt like I landed in a Netflix series.
“It turned out that I was not the only one who experienced this for the first time when the Americans turned to the judge in the middle of the interrogation. “Your Honor, respectfully… You don’t have to every time’canceled‘ say. The objection of the other party is recorded in the minutes. You don’t have to make a decision on every objection. There was a small laugh in the room, the judge himself could also laugh.
At the end of a long day of interrogations, the Americans thank the witnesses for their cooperation. Some formalities were discussed back and forth. Then the judge suddenly looked at me. “Master Rosielle, what do you want to do with tax“Immediately, I felt blind panic. Tax? What was the tax?! All eyes were on me now, but I had no idea what to say. There was no one to ask. neither. Now everyone would see that I wasn’t as seasoned as I had claimed.
Just when I was reluctant to ask what exactly the judge meant, I was saved. “What do you mean by tax? I heard the interpreter ask. “Ah,” said the judge. “What was agreed with the witnesses regarding their compensation? Then I dared to breathe again. I also didn’t know what deals had been made, but at least now I could answer. “We’ll come back to that later,” I said. “Very well,” replied the judge. To my relief, that was the end. It wasn’t until I was off the pitch that the adrenaline went down a bit.
“I only found out later that letters rogatory don’t come very often. At the time, I hadn’t realized how much it differed from a Dutch witness examination. After all, everything was new to me. Based on our experiences, a colleague and I decided to write an article about hearing Dutch witnesses in foreign proceedings. To our great surprise, it turned out that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Americans who Googled to hear witnesses in the Netherlands quickly came across our article. Because there was so little to know about letters rogatory, we suddenly seemed like experts. We learned several things from it.
Foreign lawyers still sometimes call on us to assist with letters rogatory. So now I’m actually dyed through wool. I prepare the trainees who accompany them to the hearings to the procedure as well as possible. There is always a chance that they will also receive an unexpected question. But what is the tax they all know it.
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