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Deposition Gets Sidetracked in Lengthy Detour over the Meaning of Photocopiers

Posted Mar 22, 2011 6:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A county official’s deposition turned into a lengthy debate about the definition of copying machines in a public records case being heard by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog likens the 10-page transcript to an Abbott & Costello routine, or perhaps a Mamet play. It begins with a question and an objection, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The question was posed by the lawyer for the title companies, which sued over the availability of county records at a reasonable price in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

“During your tenure in the computer department at the Recorder’s office, has the Recorder’s office had photocopying machines?” asked lawyer David Marburger.

“Objection,” interjected the county’s lawyer, Matthew Cavanagh.

“Any photocopying machine?” Marburger asked.

At this point, the witness jumped in with a response—actually a question. “When you say ‘photocopying machine,’ what do you mean?”

“Let me be clear," Marburger 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?”

Cavanagh opines that “photocopying” is a legal issue in the case, and Marburger is asking for a legal conclusion. He points out there are different kinds of photocopiers. “A photocopy machine can be a machine that uses photostatic technology, that uses xerographic technology, that uses scanning technology,” Cavanagh says.

Later, Marburger tries to simplify his question. “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?” he asks.

“Yes, sir,” the witness responds.

“What do you call that machine?” Marburger asks.

“Xerox,” the witness replies.

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