Reactor

New York Times Dramatizes Absurd Legal Transcript

by Mostafa Heddaya on April 30, 2014

A new video series at the New York Times seeks to remedy the suspension of disbelief often required when dealing with the absurd in “court trials, depositions, or government hearings.” The first product of this new effort, undertaken by the Opinion pages’ Op-Docs initiative, is a dramatization of a deposition from a 2010 Ohio Supreme Court case regarding the definition of a photocopier. Published on Sunday, the hilarious semantic back-and-forth seems like it came from Pirandello rather than the paper.

The case, over an Ohio county’s charging the public for copies of public documents, never went to trial, making the 10-page transcript in question an interesting example not just of absurdity in itself, but of a broader systemic folly. The Times hopes to rely on its readers to find new material for the series, which it is calling ‘Verbatim.’ A note accompanies this launch piece asking viewers to send any such “surprising, bizarre or baffling” documents; with any luck, these “dramatic, and often comedic, performances” will enliven an Opinion page that has, in the eyes of some observers, seen better days.

The video is posted on YouTube, as embedded above, and on the New York Times website.

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