Brilliant Reporting: NYT Recreates Wacky Deposition Over Definition Of A Photocopier

from the deposition-fun dept

The NY Times is launching a new service, which is quite awesome: taking interesting legal transcripts, and then filming them with actors. The first one is brilliant and a must-watch. The NYT got folks from the Upright Citizens Brigade to recreate the hilarious deposition fight concerning whether or not the Cuyahoga County Recorders’ Office (in Ohio) had a photocopying machine, where the Office’s IT guy (and his lawyer) worked very, very, very hard to not answer the question by constantly asking what is meant by a photocopying machine, leading to reasonable exasperation from the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case. The specific deposition, which dates back to 2010, involved the Recorders’ Office refusing to hand out electronic documents, but instead telling people who wanted copies of records that they had to pay for them to be printed/photocopied at $2 per page. There’s more on the case here, but watch the video first:

As the NYT’s Brett Weiner notes:

In this short film, I sought to creatively reinterpret the original events. (I’ve not been able to locate any original video recordings, so I’m unsure how closely my actors’ appearance and delivery resembles the original participants.) My primary rule was the performance had to be verbatim — no words could be modified or changed from the original legal transcripts. Nor did I internally edit the document to compress time. What you see is, word for word, an excerpt from what the record shows to have actually unfolded. However, I did give the actors creative range to craft their performances. As such, this is a hybrid of documentary and fiction. We’ve taken creative liberties in the staging and performance to imbue the material with our own perspectives.

This is actually a pretty cool way to make use of new digital tools to bring certain news stories to life. While this may just be amusing right now, it’ll be interesting to see how else it’s used going forward.

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Comments on “Brilliant Reporting: NYT Recreates Wacky Deposition Over Definition Of A Photocopier”

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That was a great conclusion. Brings to mind what a masterful trap successful marketing is. When you forget what a device or product is named and start calling it by the company that created or manufactured it. You can go into any office in the US and ask to make a Xerox and they will understand you. Try going into an office and ask to make a Lexmark.


Actually, Xerox actively fights against people using the word in that way, because it could lead to trademark genericization.

They took out an ad encouraging people not to say “xerox” when they meant photocopy:


I watched this and laughed
and at the end of it I listened to the disclaimer..
And thought so they are saying they had the equivalent to metadata for these transcripts
but no visual or audio or emotional content representing the actual event

Feel free to shoot me down on my comments but to me it feels like a good example of how much can be surmised from
comparatively little information
and I do understand that this is not a direct comparison of what meter data is but if you had as a one person is meaty data for a year the story it would tell would be enough to build a well rounded representation of who and what that person may be.


I am unsurprised.

I’m not sure of the job of the guy giving the deposition, but I’ve met office staff who would not know, specifically, what “photocopy machine” meant. Too technical. They know it as a copier, or a Xerox. In one case, “Ethel” which turned out to be what they’d named their copier, not the person who operated it. “Just take it to Ethel, out in the hall.


Is it just me...

I was waiting for the guy to ask the simple question right at the beginning, as soon as the evasiveness started. “You put a piece of paper in or on, a paper comes out with a copy – do you have anything like that???” Maybe lawyers tend to be stupid.

“Let’s start at the beginning. You produce paper with printing or images on them. Using what, how? How many of these are there? OK, how many of these have you used? What do you call these things?”

Either the witness is a total moron, or he’s being evasive, or he really is terrified of saying something that may be taken as wrong. But… If he’s evasive did he really think he’d escape evenually answering by saying I don’t know what you mean?

Plus, is it the article or also the county guidleines too that use the term charge by the “photocopy”? Your employer issues a guideline of charging per page for “X” and you don’t know what “X” is? My vote is on moron.

(Actually, my vote is on “this is the guy we’ll hang out to twist in the wind, and then fire for screwing up so we lost the lawsuit.” Explains the extra caution.)


Re: Re: Is it just me...

Yes, I was hoping for the follow-up… “Do you consider a Xerox a photocopier?”
And of course… “is that piece of equipment actually branded ‘Xerox’ on its front?”

“Let’s explore the depths of your ignorance…”
“Have you ever heard the word photocopier before…”
“What do YOU think a photocopier is?”
“You county guidelines mention cost per photocopy. What did you think that meant?”
“Have you ever produced paper output in response to a request for information, per your county’s guidelines? What did you use? What did they call it when they requested the data from you?”

Plus, of course, were there any memos about “photocopy” in the county records? Did he sign off on those memos?

G Thompsonsays:

Reminds me of one of teh transcripts from a brilliant book called “Disorder in the Courts” (if you have anything remotely to do with the legal profession Read it you will not stop laughing


ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

G Thompsonsays:

Re: Disorder in the court?

This one is from Disorder in the Court: Great Fractured Moments in Courtroom History – Charles Sevilla

Though the other one I have is quite well worth it as well

Disorderly Conduct: Excerpts from Actual Cases

Though looking just then at Amazon.. I had to purchase this (2nd hand) Guilty by Reason of Stupidity AWESOMENESS! ­čśë

G Thompsonsays:

Re: Re: Disorder in the court?

For those wondering.. here’s some more examples from the book

My favourite in them is #11

Q: When he went, had you gone and had she, if she wanted to and were able, for the time being excluding all the restraints on her not to go, gone also, would he have brought you, meaning you and she, with him to the station?
Mr. Brooks: Objection. That question should be taken out and shot.


It’s very clear that the guy was coached by his lawyer, and was being evasive.

Someone in the room was a moron, and I think that it was the lawyer. He coached the witness on how to be evasive and misleading: ask them to define terms, and try to get them to over-define terms.

This strategy could work, in narrow contexts. But not when it comes to straight-forward questions about everyday items.

The opposing lawyer could have handled it better. He was too late switching tactics. If he had asked the witness what he thought a photocopier was a question earlier, he would have him on record.

Not that it would be much different: any judge reading this would see a witness unwilling to answer a simple question.

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