"The fax machine a broken" in Manhattan Criminal Court - A phrase that is wrong on so many levels
On Friday evening, May 18, 2018, I was rushing to Manhattan Criminal Court to handle an arraignment for a client whose girlfriend had just engaged me to handle the case. In order to prevent the court staff from giving the court papers to the public defenders, I am required to file a notice of appearance. The only way to do this is, other than being there, is by faxing a notice of appearance to the court. So, although I no longer own a thing called a fax machine, I have a means to transmit documents to fax machines using actual modern technology. I sent Manhattan Criminal Court the necessary fax.
Upon arrival to Manhattan Criminal Court, I found that the paperwork for my client had been provided to the public defenders. I retrieved this paperwork and when I inquired about whether or not my fax had been received, I was informed that "the fax machine is broken."
This phrase, "the fax machine is broken" is a phrase that should never need to be spoken out loud except perhaps in sentences similar to this: "The fax machine is broken, and nobody cares because we don't need fax machines any more."
I remember when fax machines became sort of widespread, and they were used by more and more people. I remember how magical they seemed, and useful they were, and how much easier they made certain things.
I remember these things because I am pretty old.
I can remember getting a color tv for the first time. I remember what it was like before there were cell phones.
I would like to take this opportunity to let Manhattan Criminal Court in on a little secret: It isn't 1985 anymore. Not even close.
Given available alternatives, fax machines are horrible, nasty, wasteful, stupid piles of junk that should at this point be illegal for anyone, let alone an official government entity like the Criminal Court to use. They should not be spoken of in polite company. They should be cast onto the junk heap of history along with 8 track tapes, betamax machines, and beepers.
And not wanting to be accused of simply complaining without offering a solution, I would also like Manhattan Criminal Court to know that since 1985, when perhaps your fax machine was born, there has been this thing called "the internet" that has become widely available and accessible from all kinds of devices. And although it has some problems here and there, the military uses the internet, millions of dollars of transactions take place over the internet, we can bank over the internet, and much, much more. It's kind of amazing.
And this internet offers a variety of means of communicating information, much like your broken fax machine, only a lot better. There is email, for example, which makes it possible to transmit information, even whole documents, from all kinds of devices, not just dedicated devices using a strange incompatible format known only to those devices.
Wouldn't it be just amazing if a private lawyer like me, when retained on a case, could simply email a notice of appearance from my phone on the way into court, so that the Court would quickly know that I am coming and NOT go ahead and give my client's papers to the public defenders? Wouldn't be just amazing if the system were even made just a teeny tiny bit friendlier than that so that it would offer some level of acknowledgement that the notice has been received? Wouldn't it be amazing if the public defenders had access to this sort of information on the web connected computers they have right there in Court so that they would know NOT to take papers on defendants who have private attorneys?
But no. "The fax machine is broken." Now that I know the fax machine is broken, I will engage my footman to take a horse and gallop with all deliberate speed to 100 Centre Street to deliver my notice of appearance, written on parchment with a quill pen and illuminated by the drawings of a monk.
Is there a place to tie up a horse outside 100 Centre Street?
Maybe we can tie up the horse near where the fax machine repair truck parks.
BY DON A. MURRAY, ESQ.
I have been a New York City criminal defense lawyer for more than 27 years helping people accused of crimes in NYC Criminal Courts. Call me at 718-268-2171 to discuss your case.