When An Unstoppable Force Meets An Immovable Object…A Deposition You Wouldn’t Want To Miss!

First, the story:

From a report filed by Laura Johnston, cleveland.com (edited for brevity and easier reading):

Cuyahoga County loses copier case; spent $55,000 in tax dollars on losing effort

Updated Feb 29, 2012; Posted Feb 29, 2012

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cuyahoga County violated state law for two years by trying to charge more than $200,000 for CDs loaded with copies of property records, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The dispute dates to November 2010, when two title information companies sued then-county Recorder Lillian Greene over her policy of charging $2 a page for property records contained on a CD.

The companies argued the county must provide copies of master CDs — which the county makes each day to backup digital images of documents recorded — at cost, as required the state’s public records law.

Greene and her staff based their charges on a state law that requires a $2-per-page fee to photocopy or fax documents. Based on that law, they argued that CDs containing copies of 104,000 pages of records should cost $208,000.

“A copy is a copy is a copy,” attorney David Movius, whom the county hired to fight the suit, said last year.

The high court said in a 7-0 decision that the county must provide CDs of recorded deeds and mortgages for $1, ending a dispute that cost county taxpayers as much as $55,000 in legal fees and garnered international attention because of a county employee’s verbal acrobatics in defining the word “photocopier” during a deposition.

Greene was removed from office by a charter voters approved in 2009. But when county Executive Ed FitzGerald took office in January 2011, he continued to defend Greene’s position.

On Wednesday, county Law Director Majeed Makhlouf defended the decision to continue fighting the lawsuit, arguing that state law governing records is confusing.

“You needed clarity on the law,” Makhlouf said. “The county had already spent so much money. We thought, let’s get it clarified once and for all.”

But the seven Supreme Court justices found no confusion.

“There is no conflict, much less an irreconcilable one,” the court wrote in its opinion. “In cases in which photocopying physical pages of recorded documents is requested, a county recorder shall charge $2 per page… In cases in which CDs containing electronically recorded documents are requested, the county recorder shall charge the actual cost of the copies.”

The ruling says the county’s argument “lacks merit.”

The definition of photocopy was a highlight of the case.

Lawrence Patterson, then the acting head of information technology for the recorder’s division of the county fiscal office, testified that he could not say if photocopiers had ever been used in the office.

“When you say ‘photocopying machine,’ what do you mean?” asked Patterson, when questioned by Marburger.

Patterson still works for the county, making $65,000 a year.

Marburger said he was not exasperated in the least unlike his counterpart in the clip: “I actually wanted [Patterson] to keep up what I perceived as a charade. Once he chose the path that he took, I didn’t want a straight answer; I wanted him to keep it going. That was why I kept pushing over the course of 10 pages of transcript. To me, the testimony became too good to be true. It was perfect.”

He also said that Patterson wasn’t the slightest bit intimidated in real life. Marburger used the absurd testimony to win the case, and the court unanimously agreed that they only charge $1 per CD moving forward.

Now, for the deposition:

The video clip included below is a dramatization of the deposition verbatim!

If the clip does not show up, watch here:

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A few interesting user comments:

Warped #####: An argument so absurd it could have only happened in real life.

####### S-6: Wow! That was one of the longest Xerox commercials I’ve ever seen! If advertising was as good as this, it wouldn’t be so irritating! (Too bad it really wasn’t an Ad)

Cr####: This witness is perfect. Every defense attorney could only dream. What an apparatchik….dude understands the law better than the prosecutor.

######212000: Don’t worry guys. The lawyers weren’t really that upset. They charge over 500 dollars an hour…

#### Mission: And that’s why I murdered the witness, your honor!

Brik ####: pho·to·cop·i·er – Dictionary result for photocopier /ˈfōdōˌkäpēər/ noun a machine for making photocopies.

Naji###: This is also how my IT job feels like from time to time.

MR1#####: gas powered photocopier?

**

Here’s a deposition of a different kind for you to enjoy:

If the clip does not appear, see it here. She speaks (gibberish) like she understood what her dad is telling her!

End

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