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"I want to make sure that I answer your question correctly."
April 28, 2014 10:13 AM   Subscribe


 
Amusing at one level, but I'm pretty sure the real attorney was more bored than raging, and the NYT should know better than to imply that the case never going to trial meant the whole thing was a waste of time.

Punchline obvious....
posted by dhartung at 10:28 AM on April 28 [4 favorites]


A well coached witness...
posted by jim in austin at 10:29 AM on April 28 [3 favorites]


A well coached witness...

And a smart one. He's completely correct. The argument is far from absurd. A fax machine can make copies. A scanner can make an elecronic "copy" which can then be printed. Neither of these would be "photocopiers" however.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:35 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]


By that definition, very few offices now have photocopiers, despite the fact that the multi-function printers now most often used for that task are most often used in the same way a traditional photocopier was used.

That is to say it has been some years since I have seen a copier that does not also have integrated fax, scanning, and document printing capability.

It's a completely absurd argument.
posted by wierdo at 10:43 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]


Sometimes at work I become the de facto "computer department" person, and one of the first questions I kept getting when I started the job was "Where's the Riso?" I was all like, what is a 'rizzo?' Apparently, our department was using a Risograph instead of a true 'copy' machine for high-vollume jobs (exams, etc.), and sent it to surplus just as I started working. From my link:

The original is scanned through the machine and a master is created, by means of tiny heat spots on a thermal plate burning voids (corresponding to image areas) in a master sheet. This master is then wrapped around a drum and ink is forced through the voids in the master. The paper runs flat through the machine while the drum rotates at high speed to create each image on the paper.

Some faculty members swore by it, saying that it was much quicker and not as prone to jamming as the newer crop of laser/digital copiers. The technology seems to be similar to a fax machine, where the image you are copying is burned into a thermal drum. Kinda wish I had a chance to experiment with it, apparently it blaze through ~130 pages a minute!
posted by obscurator at 10:48 AM on April 28 [4 favorites]


Was the attrourney deliberately avoiding the term "Xerox" because it was trademarked, or possibly because it might refer to non-photocopying machines also made by Xerox, or both?
posted by BrashTech at 10:53 AM on April 28


It's an absurd transcript, but if, as the other attorney says, one of the points at issue in the case is the specific definition of "photo copy", I can certainly imagine why the witness would be hesitant to make a statement which would imply an official position by the Cuyahoga County Recorder's Office on what is or is not a photocopier.
posted by Copronymus at 11:00 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]


I'd be surprised if the attorney taking the deposition got anywhere near that heated in real life. He should have taken a step back and asked foundational questions to get at the heart of the matter instead of just trying to ram the question through.

I've seen lawyers get that heated a few times, but it's extremely rare - and always in situations a lot more trying than that one, which is, honestly, pretty standard for depositions with a well-prepared witness.
posted by The World Famous at 11:14 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]


To me it is the attorney's reaction to the question that is absurd. The witness certainly has every right to not want to make a statement outside of a carefully defined boundary, especially when under oath for a state supreme court case. What if he said there was only one because the office has only one traditional copier, but the office also has a fax machine that can also be used to make copies? The witness wants to be accurate and honest and the attorney was way out of line. It seems to me that the questioner was the one being intentionally obtuse in not wishing to define the term for the witness, hoping for an ambiguous answer that he could use later against other witnesses.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:19 AM on April 28 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it's really weird to find this on the NYT rather than some Funny or Die-type site. You'd think the NYT would have plenty of people who would realize what's going on here.
posted by straight at 11:27 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Even in just the text, the attorney's reaction seems a little unhinged -- I mean, you'd think they could compel the Recorder's Office under discovery to provide a list of all electrical equipment in their office. Frankly, I would be surprised if this information didn't already exist in a database somewhere.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:35 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Please tell me this is just a trailer for a feature-length version of this conversation.
posted by oulipian at 11:37 AM on April 28 [13 favorites]




Please tell me this is just a trailer for a feature-length version of this conversation.

If you like this, oulipan, you should really consider a job in the legal profession. This can be your life!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:40 AM on April 28 [3 favorites]


Replace 'photocopier' with 'knowledge' or 'cause' and this is pretty much a philosophy class.
posted by painquale at 11:41 AM on April 28 [10 favorites]


I always make sure to break the copier the first week at any new job, so that no one ever thinks that I should be asked to fix it. It's like the prison cafeteria fight of office jobs: you want to let people know you can't be pushed around.
posted by thelonius at 11:42 AM on April 28 [18 favorites]


If this same transcript was being parodied on a tech website, the lawyer, saying "We've got people like me, general guys ... or gals. I'm not really very interested in what the technology element of it is. I want to know --" would be the one depicted as the fool.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:43 AM on April 28


HAVE YOU EVER PULLED DOWN YOUR PANTS AND SAT ON A MACHINE THAT REPRODUCED IMAGES OF YOUR BUTT ON PAPER, IN THE RECORDER'S OFFICE??
posted by Kabanos at 11:47 AM on April 28 [8 favorites]


Awesome to see this on the blue. My very, very funny friend Brett Weiner made this. The short originally appeared at Sundance and got picked up by the NYT from there, I'm pretty sure.

Please tell me this is just a trailer for a feature-length version of this conversation.

They're turning it into an ongoing series, I believe. Well, not just this scene, but more dramatized transcripts.
posted by joechip at 11:50 AM on April 28 [7 favorites]


dhartung: Amusing at one level, but I'm pretty sure the real attorney was more bored than raging, and the NYT should know better than to imply that the case never going to trial meant the whole thing was a waste of time.

straight: Yeah, it's really weird to find this on the NYT rather than some Funny or Die-type site. You'd think the NYT would have plenty of people who would realize what's going on here.

The piece is marked as an "op-doc," which means it reflects the opinion of the person who made it, not the NY Times.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 11:50 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]


I've seen lawyers get that heated a few times, but it's extremely rare - and always in situations a lot more trying than that one, which is, honestly, pretty standard for depositions with a well-prepared witness.

Exactly. And when it does happen, it's a lot better in real life than this "op-doc" nonsense. [Fireworks begin, Texas style, at about 1:15.]
posted by The Bellman at 12:24 PM on April 28 [7 favorites]


What's "op-doc"?

somebody had to
posted by caution live frogs at 12:25 PM on April 28 [7 favorites]


This is exactly how certain Metafilter threads over a certain length go.
posted by The Whelk at 12:37 PM on April 28 [6 favorites]


...gas power??
posted by odinsdream at 12:42 PM on April 28 [4 favorites]


I like this a lot. Great acting, and great depiction of the absurd.

My dad is a lawyer, and although I can't remember specific instances, I'm pretty sure he gets annoyed by situations like these, but also loves em. He loves it because if you're being this evasive it's probably not because you have a winning case. No, instead it's more likely that you are screwed and you know it! You're stalling, you're deflecting, you're trying to make it seem plausible to someone (the judge, but probably mostly your client) that you're in the right and the other side doesn't have squat. But if you can show the absurdity of the other side, the judge is going to compel them to....

Well, at this point I don't really know how the law works, but the point is, if you can convince a judge that the other side are being assholes just to be assholes, that's a good situation to be in.
posted by Phredward at 1:01 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


The lawyer may have been using a heated tone in his voice. Berating someone can cause them to get into a defensive posture and start blurting out all kinds of useful information.
posted by humanfont at 1:11 PM on April 28


...gas power??

I've heard (though this is unconfirmed and should be considered apocryphal) of some particularly industrial strength versions of the Risograph using natural gas to heat the thermal plates since it was more efficient than electric heating. That may have been what he was referring to.
posted by mediocre at 1:11 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


This was a really well done piece, by the way. I recall reading this deposition when it happened and just loving it. This piece puts just the right voice to it.
posted by odinsdream at 1:11 PM on April 28


It was not meant to be an accurate re-enactment of the proceedings. It was an absurd situation, common in legal world but bewildering to the public at large. You give that transcript to talented actors like John Ennis (opposing counsel) and Mike McCafferty (witness) and ask them to make some good acting choices. I could tell those two where having way more fun doing that scene than should be legally allowed for a paying gig.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:29 PM on April 28 [4 favorites]


My very, very funny friend Brett Weiner made this.

Could you ask him to put closed captions or a transcript in for those of us who have hearing deficits?
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:48 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


About the "gas power" thing:
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" --
posted by CrayDrygu at 1:49 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Kimi doesn't know either.
posted by gyc at 1:50 PM on April 28 [3 favorites]


A great example of (what I imagine to characterize) the wastefulness of our justice system. But IANAL.
posted by tybeet at 2:03 PM on April 28


A great example of (what I imagine to characterize) the wastefulness of our justice system. But IANAL.

Nailing a public office for grossly overcharging for services seems like a pretty damn good use of the justice system.
posted by odinsdream at 2:07 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


No, what I mean is, this video characterizes the ability that people have to evade justice through semantics and rhetoric and general dragging of feet. And to waste money and people-hours in the process. At the end of the video it mentions that "after 600 pages of paper-work" it never went to trial.
posted by tybeet at 2:21 PM on April 28


MRK: It was an absurd situation, common in legal world but bewildering to the public at large.

Which is one of the reasons I think both lawyers were dicks, since I have little patience with either this form of obstruction through obfuscation, or the attempt to badger through it.

tybeet: At the end of the video it mentions that "after 600 pages of paper-work" it never went to trial.

It appeared to have ended in a judgement against the office in question.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:26 PM on April 28


CBrachyrhynchos: "It appeared to have ended in a judgement against the office in question."

I might have missed something, where do you see that? The office was sued, but it never went to trial, so I assume that means the lawsuit brought against the office in question was not resolved.
posted by tybeet at 2:29 PM on April 28


It's in the linked "Article."
The case never went to trial. After two years, many depositions and 600 pages of paperwork, the Ohio Supreme Court decided that the Recorder’s Office should make a CD with the documents available to the public. The price? One dollar.
Which might not technically be a judgement. I do want to be certain I'm answering your question correctly ;).
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:42 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


At the end of the video it mentions that "after 600 pages of paper-work" it never went to trial.

600 pages is nothing in a lawsuit. It's a shockingly low number of pages for a case that apparently went all the way to judgment and didn't settle.

The office was sued, but it never went to trial, so I assume that means the lawsuit brought against the office in question was not resolved.

Most civil cases never go to trial, and are resolved via pre-trial motions or settlement. That it didn't go to trial doesn't mean it wasn't resolved.
posted by The World Famous at 3:09 PM on April 28 [3 favorites]


Is there a good legal reason for the questioning lawyer to be so adamant about refusing to clarify or rephrase the original question, or is that just stubbornness?
posted by aubilenon at 4:04 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


"The technology seems to be similar to a fax machine, where the image you are copying is burned into a thermal drum."

Yeah no. I wrote and taught the PBMS training program - for seven hundred people. My class was seven days. I picked the stupidest thing to be good at.

Thermal paper is inscribed via a laser. No one uses that anymore except for cash register tapes.

There is little difference now between a modern fax, a copy machine, and a printer. They are all either sweep or flash scanners with either ink jet [boo] or Xerographic [dry writing] or they inscribe the image via laser on the drum previous to it encountering the toner - which is carbon, iron, and plastic.

Electrostatic drums or photorecepter belts where the image is initially charged via the cortron wire [typically tungsten and at an insane voltage] are erased by light - or - the white portion of the image.

I'm not doing a good job of explaining - it's been a while. Here is an animation.

I used to work nights and run three machines at a law firm [Farella Braun and Martel] in the early nineties. Two of the copy machines made ninety copies a minute and the other made sixty copies a minute. They charged twenty five cents a copy which meant I generated $3,600 an hour when I had cases with a large service list.

I was making less than ten dollars an hour.
posted by vapidave at 4:07 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Here's Tim Hunkin's Secret Life Of The Photocopier, while it predates the scanning photocopier it covers the history and basics of Xerography quite well.
posted by Grimgrin at 4:10 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


What's important here is that John Ennis was cast in a role where he was allowed to yell a bunch because John Ennis is a grade A yeller.
posted by StopMakingSense at 4:19 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Man, if I were the witness, I would've been in the exact same situation. A photocopy machine? The hell do I know. I've used copiers, plenty, but if someone asked me if I'd used a photocopy machine, I'd have no idea. I don't know the technical term for a Xerox/copier, and the last thing I'd want to say is "Uh, yeah, I think so" and then get slapped with perjury because it turns out the copier was actually a fluro-scanning copier or something, not using Photo CopyTM technology.
posted by Bugbread at 5:03 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


But he pointedly wasn't asking about the "technical term", he was asking about the "office parlance." And in office parlance, a machine which has as its primary purpose making copies is a a photocopier, regardless of how it operates.

"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'".

To use this analogy, the attorney was asking if the office had a car. He didn't care if it was electric or gas.
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:38 PM on April 28


I'd say "copier" is the office parlance of our times, not "photocopier".
posted by thelonius at 6:05 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


I think I disagree with those who are saying that this was a "well-coached witness" who was craftily avoiding being being pinned down on a crucial point around which the case might hinge. I think the guy really, genuinely, was baffled by the word "photocopier." Here's the continuation of the transcript from the point it ends at in the (very well done) video:
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.
The guy's as happy as can be to say that his office has a Xerox and that they Xerox stuff all the time. Which is to say, he's not avoiding conceding the point the lawyer's asking about at all (that they have a Xerox machine which copies stuff is all the lawyer wants to know). And, on preview, Bugbread's comment provides supporting evidence that there are people for whom the word "photocopier" is genuinely unusual and confusing. Who would have thought?
posted by yoink at 6:26 PM on April 28 [10 favorites]


I worked with the night secretaries - Greg and Dewey - who had been there forever. Copy machines used to be the most hated device in the office. There were whole departments dedicated to "Word Processing" when comupters were rare and expensive.

Greg had worked with someone who was from way back when - photocopiers used to have a curved glass that you laid the document to be copied upon one at a time, no autofeed, no ADH.

There was an elderly person that Greg worked with that insisted on proofing the photocopies - as though the photocopier contained a tiny person looking up who transcribed the document with a tiny typewriter.
posted by vapidave at 6:48 PM on April 28 [6 favorites]


Given that they were in Ohio, it's probably a good thing the case wasn't about whether or not there were any mangoes in the office.
posted by The World Famous at 7:12 PM on April 28


vapidave: "There was an elderly person that Greg worked with that insisted on proofing the photocopies - as though the photocopier contained a tiny person looking up who transcribed the document with a tiny typewriter."

Previously.
posted by KChasm at 11:17 AM on April 29


The final verdict from the Ohio Supreme Court came in 2012. To sum up: the county wanted to charge big fees for access to public records of real estate transactions $2/page because the law allowed them to charge $2/photocopy.

Defining "photocopy" was important to the county's scheme. If a photocopy is any copy of the page, even an electronic copy then they would win. So into this steps poor Mr. Patterson head of the IT department for the County Records office as a witness. If he defines a photocopier, he might hurt the county's case. So he has to get the lawyer from the other side to be extremely specific about it. I have not found it, but there are rumors on the Internet that a 40+ page report was commissioned by the plaintiff on the history of photocopiers by a university and what precisely constituted a photocopier.
posted by humanfont at 5:15 PM on April 29 [1 favorite]


I think the last time I used the word "photocopier" was either in an electronic mail or talking on my cellular phone.
posted by straight at 8:31 PM on April 29 [1 favorite]


KChasm: "Previously."

Exactly. And I'm noticing that although in that thread, and the linked article, the word "photocopier" is used a lot, the actual page for the Xerox WorkCentre 7535 doesn't use the word "photocopier" or "photocopy" a single time (instead referring to it exclusively as a "multifunction printer".

Also, I got burned once translating a word as "photocopier", only to have my translation agency send back feedback saying the device wasn't a photocopier, but an MFP. So, yeah, not knowing what a "copier" is? That's weird. But not knowing what a "photocopier" is? Not so strange, in my opinion.
posted by Bugbread at 9:42 PM on April 29


I think it's a generational and probably regional thing as well, perhaps chronologically in this order:

Mimeograph Machine / ?
Xerox Machine
Photocopier
Copier / Copy Machine
Multifunction / MFP / Digital Copy Machine
Printer

That last one...I'm accustomed to most copiers being MFPs at this point, and most people I work with primarily use them for printing, followed by scanning, faxing, and copying dead last, so more often than not they are called "printers" because that's how they're being employed. I never look askance at the use of "photocopier" but "Xerox" is too far back to sound right and "multifunction / MFC" tend to be second-class terms when there's ambiguity about a desk workstation printer vs. a beast.
posted by aydeejones at 1:51 AM on April 30


Also it's worth mentioning that it wouldn't be too hard to get an IT guy to get super-precise about the meaning of something like this when there's a clear-cut "analog" definition rooted in Xerography, a modern digital equivalent that employs multiple technologies (scanning, computation, compression, networking, spinning disks, etc) to accomplish the same thing, and room for semantic debate about whether it matters what you call it at all. We, er, they, can go on and on once they've staked out their position :|
posted by aydeejones at 1:55 AM on April 30


Xerography is just the method of sticking the toner to the paper electrostatically. It's what Xerox machines (and other photocopiers) have always done, regardless of any changes in the image-capturing or -processing portion of the process.

People say "Xerox" to distinguish a photocopy from a stinky purple mimeograph; it's a holdover from a time when "I need ten copies of this" was fraught with ambiguity.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:18 AM on May 1


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