Reluctant witness refuses to admit he knows what a photocopier is

In this transcript from an Ohio Supreme Court Case, a Cuyahoga County office worker refuses to answer a simple question: "has the Recorder's office had photocopying machines?" The worker mainains (for ten pages!) that he doesn't know what a photocopying machine is, and can't say whether his office has one:
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?

Identifying photocopy machine poses problem for Cuyahoga County official (Thanks, Micah!)


  1. So what is his objective here? If he admits that he knows that there exist machines that can make copies of paper, what does he stand to lose? Surely he’s doing this for some reason.

  2. I have never heard anyone say “would you photocopy this?”
    It’s always “copy” or “Xerox.”

    1. “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.”

      I don’t know whom I rooting for at this point.

      1. Surely the point of a jury (generally) is to assess reasonable doubt.

        Whether or not they lose credibility shouldn’t effect the principle that by denying something like this (and not proving otherwise) it creates reasonable doubt?

        Otherwise you’re just jurying based on subjective judgement.

        1. Surely the point of a jury is to provide enough judgment that “I forget what guns are” wouldn’t be a valid defense in every murder case.

    2. Same here. ‘Photo’ is surely implied, but strictly speaking I have not heard someone specifically say ‘photocopy’ when they are referring to the production of a copy of a document. Always just ‘copy’. I doubt most people even know what the ‘photo’ part is referring to when it comes to an apparently mechanical devise that makes…er,…copies.

  3. From the article:

    “The overall case is about whether deeds and other records at the county recorder’s office — records that were collected and are maintained with your taxes — should be readily available at reasonable cost.
    The lawyers involved in the case say the question about the photocopier is technical, getting at an arcane point of law.”

    I was hoping he was being evasive cos he was caught photocopying his butt.

  4. I’ve been on juries before where a witness stonewalled like this, and I can tell you the witness instantly loses all credibility, even if his/her side of the story would have been credible.

    1. Credible and Cuyahoga do not go hand-in-hand. ;)
      The county administration is about as corrupt as anywhere outside New Orleans.

      A friend and I have a little website to help out fellow surveyors (and other abstracting noobs) who do courthouse deed research. What was my comment on Cuyahoga? “Office personnel are very rude and unhelpful.” ;)

  5. This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered something like this.

    I was in a doctor’s office, and my nose started running. I went up to the receptionist and asked her for a tissue. She had no idea what I was talking about. I had to explain at length that mucous was coming out of my nose, and I needed one of the white square sheets of soft paper that comes in a box to absorb and clean it up. At that point her eyes lit up and she said “A Kleenex! You want a Kleenex!”

    People frequently associate a product class with a specific brand. A Band-Aide (not a self-adhesive sterile bandage), some Vaseline (not petroleum jelly), a Q-Tip (not a cotton swab), etc.

    I’m not at all surprised that this person thinks that all photocopiers are Xerox machines.

    1. People frequently associate a product class with a specific brand. A Band-Aide (not a self-adhesive sterile bandage), some Vaseline (not petroleum jelly), a Q-Tip (not a cotton swab), etc.

      I, for one, make an effort to avoid using genericized trademarks.

      1. I, for one, make an effort to avoid using genericized trademarks.

        Really? You’re a rarity. Ask around any school cafeteria for a kid who’ll share his gelatin dessert with you. And don’t empty the kitchen trash into the Dumpster… only use the mobile garbage bin! You know, the one used as a shelter by the junkies who consume diacetylmorphine (credit Bayer for their trademark name “Heroin”). Which they certainly wouldn’t keep in a Baggie.

        It’s a tough thing to avoid.

      2. May I suggest that efforts are better employed in any number of ways more worthy than struggling not call that tissue a “Kleenex.”

  6. When I read this to myself, I kept on hearing the dialogue in that mono-tone from xtranormal videos. Someone’s gotta give this the Bear Treatment.

  7. The best exchange so far:

    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.

  8. Larry Patterson. Makin’ copies. The larrymeister. From Cuyahoga Countyyyyyy. Larry-larry-bo-barry. testifyinnnn’. The Larrynator. Doesn’t know parlanccccce. Doesn’t feel stupid. Larrrrrrrryyyyyy. Makin’ copies…

  9. Ahh public employees. They know they are public employees, but oftentimes tend to forget that they WORK FOR THE PUBLIC, and in turn are completely rude to the public.

  10. I love how meta this gets:

    Marburger: 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.

    Anyway, it resolves itself. The guy says that he calls it a Xerox, and knows what it is. So if he was stalling, he was stalling to be a jerk, and he wasn’t planning to keep it up for ever. The other explanation is that “his generation,” as he says, really does call it a Xerox. Frankly, I’ve certainly never heard it referred to as a “photocopying machine,” as the lawyer repeatedly calls it in the beginning. I think that was the cause of the problem from the start.

  11. My question is: why was it so important to the lawyer that the witness recognize the specific term photocopier? Why not a “duplicating machine” or “xerox” or “copier?” Would any of those terms have less weight legally than “photocopier?”

    1. The case was about what access the public should have to certain records.

      My totally random guess is that someone asked this guy for a photocopy of something and he said “we can’t do that”, because he didn’t feel like it, and he’s saying “Oh, I could have made her a xerox, but I didn’t know that was the same as a ‘photocopy'”

      1. If that’s the case, he goofed. He could legitimately say he couldn’t Xerox if he had a Canon copier, but he can’t legitimately deny a photocopy. So apparently his only recourse was to look both stupid AND hostile. Great solution, and I hope he got adequately beat down.

  12. This is the judges fault for not doing their job. One of their most important judicial duties is to prevent endless question recursion into pure sophistry. (“depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is”) Given this desertion of duty by the judge the witness should’ve pointed out that objective reality isn’t possible and that as far as he knows his office chair is actually part of Shiva’s spleen; and all law cases should become Buddhist koans.

    1. This is the judges fault for not doing their job.

      This was a deposition, not testimony in open court. There would have been no judge, just the lawyers and the witness being deposed.

  13. …a LOT of people have never heard of a photocopier, mimeograph, record player, tape player, floppy disk drive, ZIP disk, AM radio, typewriter, tty, pay phone, collect call, hell the list is ENDLESS at this point.

    1. Those people are too stupid to be allowed out without helmets, much less serve on a jury. The more and more I learn about people, the more I become convinced that a basic skills test should be required to be granted full civil participation.

      “SERVICE EQUALS CITIZENSHIP! Would you like to know more?”

    2. I find it hard to believe someone who has never heard of a photocopier would argue there are different kinds.

      1. I find it hard to believe someone who has never heard of a photocopier would argue there are different kinds.

        It was his lawyer who argued that there are different kinds. The witness only mentioned that there are different kinds after his lawyer pointed it out.

        At first I thought the witness was just trying to be evasive and not admit that there was a photocopier in his office; but when he finally figured out that “photocopier” = “Xerox” he had no reluctance admitting that his office had one. That suggests to me that his confusion was honest.

        Of course, there were really only two possible ways of interpreting what was going on here:
        (a) the witness was a weasel; or
        (b) the witness was an idiot.

        Neither interpretation looks good for the witness; and I’m not sure which is more damning. But, the way I read it, interpretation (b) seems to be the more plausible of the two. I think what clenched it for me was when, after accusing the opposing lawyer of trying to make him feel stupid, the witness said: “I have self-confidence and I have no problem.” I would not expect such a pitiable affirmation from someone who thought he was outwitting the opposing lawyer during a sworn deposition. Those are the words of someone who is trying desperately to convince himself that he’s not really an idiot, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.

  14. re: Why is this argument happening at all?

    Details in the article are scant, but I think I know what’s going on here. It sounds like citizens are complaining that they can’t get copies of deeds and other records in a reasonable amount of time, or for a reasonable amount of money.

    The recorder’s office says that it takes a lot of time and equipment to copy records, so the citizens should be content to wait and pay. The staff member is trying to avoid admitting he knows what a common office copier is, because if he doesn’t know what it is, he can’t testify they have them around. If he can’t testify they have them around, then he can’t testify that there is an alternative to the slow and expensive way of doing things.

    1. I am a lawyer. I think that a hostile witness is only a “problem” when he’s supposedly YOUR witness, but isn’t acting like it. I’m not a trial lawyer, hence my reluctance to say this unqualifiedly.

  15. During a deposition, I was asked about a patent drawing. About which way a feature curved. I said up, the lawyer kept trying to get me to say to the side. We went round and round for 20 or 30 minutes. I wasn’t trying to be a jerk, I really saw it curving up. Round and round we went.

    Then all of a sudden I saw it. Curving to the side. Just as I said “Hey, I can see it curving to the side,” the lawyer said, “Wow, it’s like a necker cube. I see it curving up!” We both laughed, and that was the end of the deposition.

    Weirdly, none of that had anything to do with the case at all.

  16. 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.

    this just p_ss_s me off.
    if that damn lawyer had used a simple everyday term like “a type of machine where you place a piece of paper on the top and press a button and out comes copies of it” rather than the arcane technical term “photocopy” then none of this would have happened
    damn liberal elites and their ivy league educations!

    get off my lawn!

  17. I don’t think I’ve used the generic form of Xerox in…. decades.

    “I’ve got to make a copy.” “Argh, the copier is down.” “Somebody jammed up the photocopy machine.”

    The witness is a dick and a half.

    After reading that, I need a lower-case aspirin.

    Actually, in the last few years it’s been “I’ll make a copy on the printer.”

    Xerox? Does the guy listen to a ghetto blaster, too?

  18. I was standing in the financial aid office at my college recently and overheard the following:

    FA: You need to sign the bottom of the page.
    Student: block prints name
    FA: No you need to sign, with your signature.
    Student: That is my signature
    FA: No, you need to sign it, in cursive.
    Student: What’s cursive.
    FA: Cursive, you know not printing.
    Student: I’ve never heard that before, do you learn that here, in an art class or something?
    FA: Where are you transferring to again?
    Student: USC or Stanford, I’m an Econ major.
    FA: Good luck with that.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. I’ve heard the word “Xerox” more times in this thread than I have in the last 10 years.

      I work in an office, and personally, we ALL call it a photocopier/the photocopier (apart from the cool guys, who shorten it to ‘copier’). Maybe Britain just has less brand-name association than the USA?

      For the record, the photocopier in my office is a Canon, that replaced the knackered old Brother machine.

      1. “Maybe Britain just has less brand-name association than the USA?”

        Isn’t it common to call vacuuming your carpet “hoovering” in the UK? That comes from a brand. From watching UK programming I’ve heard a few others that come from brand names that we don’t use in the USA. What we in the USA call Wite-Out they call some other brand in the UK. With the exception of Lego, all the products on James May’s Toy Stories are brand names that we don’t generally have branded names for in the USA.

        1. On the other hand, in the UK we use ‘cotton wool bud’ rather than ‘q-tip’, ’tissue’ in preference to ‘Kleenex’, and ‘cling film’ rather than ‘Saran wrap’. It’s probably just that we have different genericised brands, rather than more or less.

          (Oh, and ‘Wite-Out’ is ‘Tippex’, although ‘correction fluid’ is also common.)

  19. I agree that Xerox is a fairly dated term at this point. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone use “xerox” as a term for “copy” in many years, and our copiers ARE currently Xerox machines. Everyone says “copy.”

    “Photocopy” is a bit stilted and I don’t know if I’ve ever heard it specifically used casually, but I don’t think that anyone with enough IQ to use the bathroom successfully wouldn’t know what you’re talking about.

    Could be a regional thing though.

  20. @Anon: you really don’t want me writing in cursive. My teachers gave up making me do that in 3rd grade. I haven’t used it since. As a result, if I try to use it, it looks like a 3rd grader with particularly bad handwriting wrote it.

    1. My signature is an horrifically unreadable scribble, probably since I used to have a job where I signed my name many hundreds of times per day. But every time that I sign in front of someone, they remark that nobody could ever forge my signature.

  21. We say photocopy and photocopier in the UK. Xerox never really took off here. I haven’t actually heard the words for a while though, because at this point paper is pretty much outdated too.

  22. According to the linked article, Patterson makes $64K per year.

    In light of current budget constraints, I can think of a way for the County to save $64K next year…

  23. In my time, I’ve heard it called xerox (lowercase, which Xerox hates even though the process used in traditional photocopiers is, in fact, xerography), IBMox (jokingly, for a copier that happened to have been built by IBM), photocopy, and copy. More recently, it’s sometimes been a separate scanner and printer.

    Outside of IBMox, I’d say someone in this culture ought to recognize all of those… and if they don’t recognize, they should ask “I’m sorry, what kind of machine?”, or “what is it you’re trying to do?” which would have resolved it.

    As others have said, this sounds like someone trying to claim that he was somewhere between stupid and ignorant in order to avoid admitting he was deliberately obstructionist. Personally, I’d fire his a$$ either way.

  24. Around here we “zox” things in a photoduplicator, just as we “nuke” things in a microwave oven.

    Nobody says “photocopy” or “xerox”. Just “zox”, used as both a verb and a noun.

    Sometimes written as “xox”, such as Taylor, can you get me a xox of these for the inspectors?.

  25. The verb I learned in high school Russian for making a copy on a photocopier was in loanword + ovat form, tseroksovat. Don’t know if it’s still the case. It was twenty years ago. Starting to feel old…

  26. I’ve worked on television shows for a couple of decades now, and though we’ve gone “paperless” with a lot of our documents, we still tend to make many, many paper copies of scripts and revisions in particular. The volume of paper we go through is kinda appalling. In any case, it might be because it gets used so much, but in every production office I’ve worked in, it didn’t matter whether you asked for Xeroxes, photocopies, hard copies, “a touch of xerographical service,” blue pages, pink pages, yellow pages, green pages, or whatever… even the greenest Production Assistant fresh out of film school (or even high school, if he happened to be the producer’s nephew or something) knew what was being asked for. It ain’t a particularly esoteric term, this “photocopy.” Even if nobody’s ever used the term around you, you could figure out what it meant in far less than ten pages of back-and-forth, even without using the taboo word “Xerox.” And if you’re an “office worker” who’s never heard of a photocopier, you might as well pretend to be a plumber who’s never heard of a pipe wrench.

    Guy was just being an asshat.

  27. “To be fair to the guy, maybe Amelia Bedelia trained him.”

    Now THAT”S funny.

    I hate those books, but unfortunately my niece loved them.

  28. cleveland….you gotta be tough.

    Especially when you have to pay taxes so that this A$$hat breathes air.

  29. All the filings (although sadly not the deposition transcripts) are available here:

    The case centers on how much it should cost to get electronic copies of real estate deeds in bulk. The entities filling suit had a specific deal with the Recorder to get the deeds on CD for $50 per CD for a number of year. A new Recorder came in, noticed what looked like a sweetheart deal, and ended it, asking instead for the existing rate for paper copies of $2 per page.

  30. You’re all being unfair to the guy on the stand. He was asked, specifically, if he had heard the term “photocopy” at the office. THE TERM. I use a copier every couple of days, and I’m not sure I’ve heard the term “photocopy” used at my office once in seven years. Patterson said he had probably heard THAT TERM used, but could not recall a specific instance, but he was pretty certain he’d heard it used.

    Frankly, I think the lawyer used poor language, if the point was to see if Patterson was aware that photocopying was a service the office had the capability of offering. THAT WAS NOT WHAT WAS ASKED. And Patterson made no reference, in at least the above quoted dialog, to not knowing that this technology was available at the office — in fact, everything said indicates that he certainly knew copying was done there.

    I am confused, why give the guy such a hard time? The lawyer should be the one you’re mocking, he was asking his question poorly. I know that if I were on a stand in a court of law being questioned by a lawyer, I would make EVERY EFFORT to answer each question as literally as I could.

  31. Apparently part of the problem is that the recipients of these CDs full of scanned documents were taking them, reformatting the data, and reselling it to banks and such at a huge markup.

    So, while the County government may suck for doing it, and this witness was clearly being deliberately obtuse, there is at least a theoretical “good” reason it was being done.

    1. No, there is no theoretical “good” reason.

      The Ohio Revised Code stated that a reasonable fee for providing copies of public records may be charged to cover reproduction expenses.

      This was fine and good until the Republican general assembly one year decided they needed to increase revenue w/o that evil taint of raising taxes. So they imposed a new fee structure wherein 50% off all fees collected by the recorder’s office went straight to the state house.

      Now $2 per page is the norm. That’s small potatoes for a surveyor like me (most of the time) as I only care about the legal description, but for a title abstracter who needs every page of every relevant document back 42 years (including mortgages which can total scores of pages) this gets out of hand very quickly and ends up being a not-insignificant invisible tax on all matters regarding real-estate.

      Since the legal protection ensuring reasonable access to public records is now gone many recorders have seized upon this opportunity to use my records to generate revenue. Fees have skyrocketed and books and microfilms which were once publicly accessible are now unable to be opened by the public, for fear that those new-fangled flat-bed scanners be used to “steal” from the recorder.

      Things have gotten so bad some recorders have started charging $0.10 per square inch for plats! Do the math on what they are collecting for an D-sized print!

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