Law in Popular Culture

Deposition derailed by definition of copy machine now immortalized in comic video


A deposition that got sidetracked in a lengthy debate over the meaning of photocopy machines has been immortalized in a new performance series by the New York Times.

The series “transforms verbatim (word for word) legal transcripts into dramatic, and often comedic, performances,” the New York Times explains in the debut episode.

In the performance, an increasingly frustrated plaintiff’s lawyer asks a county worker whether his office has any photocopy machines.

“Objection,” interjects the county’s lawyer.

“Any photocopying machine?” the plaintiff’s lawyer asks.

At this point, the witness responds with a question. “When you say ‘photocopying machine,’ what do you mean?”

“Let me be clear,” the plaintiff’s lawyer later says. “The term ‘photocopying machine’ is so ambiguous that you can’t picture in your mind what a photocopying machine is in an office setting?”

The banter over the meaning continues.

Though the words were verbatim, the actors were given creative license. In a comment, the actual plaintiff’s lawyer, David Marburger, takes issue with the interpretation. “The deposition wasn’t angry, and the witness didn’t act scared,” Marburger writes. “I sat back much as the actor playing my opposing counsel does in the video, and tossed out questioning to see how far the witness would go in disclaiming knowledge of photocopying in an office setting. The idea was to use the witness’s own testimony to make him look disingenuous.”

The case involved a challenge to a new records policy by the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office in Ohio. According to Marburger, the county took the position that dubbing a CD containing thousands of pages should cost $2 for each digital page—about $5,000 for each dubbed CD. The plaintiff, Data Trace Information Services and Property Insight, was challenging the policy, the Times explains. About two years into the case, the Ohio Supreme Court said the CDs should be made available at a cost of $1 apiece.

Above the Law noted the new series and says Marburger is a lawyer with Baker Hostetler.

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