Too Much Free Time

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
photocopier



Great Moments In Legal Questioning: IT Boss In Cuyahoga County Cannot Identify A Photocopier

from the say-that-again-now? dept

A few of you have passed along this rather epic moment in legal questioning in which lawyer David Marburger (who we've discussed in totally different contexts before) tries to get a Cuyahoga County IT boss to answer a simple question about whether or not the recorder's office has a photocopying machine during a case being heard before the Ohio Supreme Court. The entire transcript, which we repeat below, takes up 10 pages. If you're reading this on the front page or via the RSS, the transcript is so long that we're moving some of it to the article page, so click on through if you want to read the whole thing (which is worth it). Marburger is the lawyer asking questions (representing some title companies in the lawsuit). Patterson is Lawrence Patterson, acting head of IT for the recorder's division at the county fiscal office, and the guy being questioned. Cavanagh is Matthew Cavanagh, the lawyer for the county who seems quite upset that anyone might pry into the nature of the machinery at work in the county offices:
Marburger: During your tenure in the computer department at the Recorder's office, has the Recorder's office had photocopying machines?

Cavanagh: Objection.

Marburger: Any photocopying machine?

Patterson: When you say "photocopying machine," what do you mean?

Marburger: Let me be -- let me make sure I understand your question. You don't have an understanding of what a photocopying machine is?

Patterson: No. I want to make sure that I answer your question correctly.

Cavanagh: Dave, I'll object to the tone of the question. You make it sound like it's unbelievable to you that he wouldn't know what the definition of a photocopy machine is.

Marburger: I didn't ask him to define it. I asked him if he had any.

Patterson: When you say "photocopying machine," what do you mean?

Marburger: Let me be clear. The term "photocopying machine" is so ambiguous that you can't picture in your mind what a photocopying machine is in an office setting?

Patterson: I just want to make sure I answer your question correctly.

Marburger: Well, we'll find out. If you can say yes or no, I can do follow-ups, but it seems -- if you really don't know in an office setting what a photocopying machine is, I'd like the Ohio Supreme Court to hear you say so.

Patterson: I just want to make sure I answer your question correctly.

Cavanagh: There's different types of photocopiers, Dave.

Marburger: You're speaking instead of -- you're not under oath. This guy is.

Cavanagh: I understand that, but I understand what his objection is. You want him to answer the question, but I don't think it's fair.

Marburger: It's not fair?

Cavanagh: It's not a fair question. A photocopy machine can be a machine that uses photostatic technology, that uses xerographic technology, that uses scanning technology.

Marburger: I don't care what kind of technology it uses. Has your offices -- we don't have technocrats on the Ohio Supreme Court. We've got people like me, general guys --

Cavanagh: Objection.

Marburger: -- or gals. I'm not really very interested in what the technology element of it is. I want to know --

Cavanagh: That's what's at issue in the case, Dave.

Marburger: Not in my judgment. Do you have photocopying machines at the Recorder's office? If you don't know what that means in an office setting, please tell the court you don't know what it means in an office setting to have a photocopying machine.

Patterson: I would like to answer your question to the best of my ability.

Marburger: I'm asking you to answer that.

Patterson: So if you could explain to me what you mean by --

Marburger: I'm not going to do that because I want you -- I want to establish on the record that you really don't know what it is. I want to establish that.

Now, do you know what it is or do you not know what it is? Do you understand what that term means in common parlance or not?

Patterson: Common parlance?

Marburger: Common language.

Patterson: I'm sorry. I didn't know what that meant. I understand that there are photocopying machines, and there are different types of them just like --

Marburger: Are there any in the Recorder's office?

Patterson: -- there are different cars. Some of them run under gas power, some of them under electric power, and I'm asking if you could help me out by explaining what you mean by "photocopying machines" --

Marburger: That's a great point.

Patterson: -- instead of trying to make me feel stupid.

Marburger: If you feel stupid, it's not because I'm making you feel that way.

Cavanagh: Objection.

Patterson: I have self-confidence and I have no problem.

Marburger: I don't think you're stupid.

Patterson: I think -- I don't have any problem answering the question.

Marburger: I think you're playing games with me.

Cavanagh: Dave, the word "photocopying" is at issue in this case, and you're asking him whether something is or isn't a photocopy machine, which is a legal conclusion --

Marburger: This isn't a patent case. There's no statute that defines -- where I'm asking him to define technology for me. I'm asking -- I want to find out from a layperson's perspective, not an engineer's perspective, not a technician's perspective, but from -- I have an idea.

Marburger: How about this: Have you ever heard the term "photocopier" or "photocopy" used in the Recorder's office by anybody?

Patterson: Photocopy? I'm sure in the time I've been there someone has used the term.

Marburger: And have you ever heard them use it in referencing a particular device or machine within the Recorder's office? By way of example, "can you photocopy that for me?" That's an example of office parlance.

Patterson: That particular terminology I've not witnessed.

Marburger: What was the context that you've heard the term "photocopy" used in the Recorder's office?

Patterson: I'm sure it's been used. I didn't say I remembered a specific instance.

Marburger: All right. But you have a general understanding that people have used the term "photocopy" within the Recorder's office in terms of something that could be done there; is that true?

Patterson: I'm sure it's been used. I don't remember a specific instance or how it was used. I'm sure it's been used.

Marburger: And is it fair to say that it's been used in terms of being able to copy one piece of paper onto another piece of paper using a machine? No? Not sure of that?

Patterson: I'm sure it's been used. I don't recall a specific instance in which it was.

Marburger: Do you have a secretary?

Patterson: No.

Marburger: Does anybody there have a secretary?

Patterson: Yes.

Marburger: Have you ever heard a secretary use the term "photocopy"?

Patterson: No.

Marburger: Have you ever--do you have machines there where I can put in a paper document, push a button or two, and out will come copies of that paper document also on paper? Do you have such a machine?

Patterson: Yes, sir.

Marburger: What do you call that machine?

Patterson: Xerox.

Marburger: Xerox. Is the machine made by the Xerox Company? Is that why it's called Xerox?

Patterson: No.

Marburger: So Xerox, in the parlance that you've described, the language that you've described, is being used generically as opposed to describing a particular brand; is that right?

Patterson: All of my life I've just known people to say Xerox. It's not commonplace to use the terminology that you're using.

Marburger: You mean it's more -- people say Xerox instead of photocopy?

Patterson: If you're referring to a type of machine where you place a piece of paper on the top and press a button and out comes copies of it, they usually refer to it as a Xerox.

Marburger: Have you ever heard it referred to as photocopying?

Patterson: Not with my generation, no.


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  1. icon
    Coises (profile), 23 Mar 2011 @ 12:48pm

    It seems ambiguous to me

    My immediate reaction was that if someone insisted that I answer, yes or no, whether I have a photocopier in my house, I’d be puzzled as to how to reply. I have a printer/scanner which can be (and has been) used to make photocopies. I don’t have a dedicated photocopying machine. If I were sworn to tell the truth, yet not allowed to explain that simple ambiguity, I’d be frustrated and angry... I’d feel like I was being set up.

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