Back in 1998, when President Bill Clinton was knee deep in grand jury testimony concerning allegations that he had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, the law-school-educated leader reached new heights of word-parsing when, in response to a question, he said: “That depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” The response is an example of how lawyers have a different understanding of the English language than the rest of us mere mortals.
This week, The New York Times produced a dramatic reenactment of a legal deposition in Ohio in which a lawyer hits a seemingly insurmountable hurdle when the man rebuts his line of questioning with another question, “When you say photocopying machine, what do you mean?”
Everything goes downhill from there, as the lawyer is dumbfounded by opposing counsel’s attempts to justify the fact that his client has no way of knowing what a photocopier in an office setting looks like. As the Times put it, the result was “a 10-page argument over the semantics of photocopiers.”
The debate was part of the Ohio Supreme Court Case 2010-2029, which had to do with the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office wanting to stop making digital files of their records. People would have to pay $2 per page for copies, and companies that collect public information would have been hit hard by this policy.
After two years and many depositions, the case never went to trial, and the court decided a $1 CD of the records should be made available. But now it lives on in this hilarious video: