Cuyahoga County Recorder's Office Employee Confused About What a Photocopier Is (Update)

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Update: The photocopier hardee-har was a laugh on the surface, but as we told you in a cover story earlier this year, there are important precedents to be set based on how this court case — which centers on whether the county recorder's office has to provide reasonably priced electronic and physical copies of records to the public and/or third-party companies — turns out.

The PD reports this week that the county just authorized an additional $30,000 for legal fees as the case proceeds in the Ohio Supreme Court.

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You know what a photocopier is. Your grandma knows what a photocopier is. Everyone knows what a photocopier is.

But when it comes to legalese, public records, lawsuits, and lawyers, the definition, apparently, is up in the air.

Lawrence Patterson, acting head of information technology for the recorder's office, was involved last year in a case 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," according to the PD.

Ten pages of court transcripts are devoted to a discussion between lawyers and Patterson over whether he knew there was photocopying available at the office. At the heart of that discussion is Patterson's insistence that he is confused by the word "photocopy" and the lawyer's complete and utter disbelief at what Patterson is saying. What follows is a snippet of the transcript, which is just about the most entertaining and maddening thing you will read all day.

Remember, Patterson is a Cuyahoga County employee making $64,000 a year.

Marburger is a lawyer who filed the lawsuit. Cavanagh is an attorney representing the county.

Marburger: During your tenure in the computer department at the Recorder's office, has the Recorder's office had photocopying machines?

Cavanagh: Objection.

Marburger: Any photocopying machine?

Patterson: When you say "photocopying machine," what do you mean?

Marburger: Let me be — let me make sure I understand your question. You don't have an understanding of what a photocopying machine is?

Patterson: No. I want to make sure that I answer your question correctly.

Cavanagh: Dave, I'll object to the tone of the question. You make it sound like it's unbelievable to you that he wouldn't know what the definition of a photocopy machine is.

Marburger: I didn't ask him to define it. I asked him if he had any.

Patterson: When you say "photocopying machine," what do you mean?

Marburger: Let me be clear. The term "photocopying machine" is so ambiguous that you can't picture in your mind what a photocopying machine is in an office setting?

Patterson: I just want to make sure I answer your question correctly.

Cavanagh: Dave, I'll object to the tone of the question. You make it sound like it's unbelievable to you that he wouldn't know what the definition of a photocopy machine is.

Marburger: I didn't ask him to define it. I asked him if he had any.

Patterson: When you say "photocopying machine," what do you mean?

Marburger: Let me be clear. The term "photocopying machine" is so ambiguous that you can't picture in your mind what a photocopying machine is in an office setting?

Patterson: I just want to make sure I answer your question correctly.

Marburger: Well, we'll find out. If you can say yes or no, I can do follow-ups, but it seems — if you really don't know in an office setting what a photocopying machine is, I'd like the Ohio Supreme Court to hear you say so.

Make sure to head over to Cleveland.com to read the rest of the unbelievable conversation.

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