Brilliant Reporting: NYT Recreates Wacky Deposition Over Definition Of A Photocopier

from the deposition-fun dept

The NY Times is launching a new service, which is quite awesome: taking interesting legal transcripts, and then filming them with actors. The first one is brilliant and a must-watch. The NYT got folks from the Upright Citizens Brigade to recreate the hilarious deposition fight concerning whether or not the Cuyahoga County Recorders' Office (in Ohio) had a photocopying machine, where the Office's IT guy (and his lawyer) worked very, very, very hard to not answer the question by constantly asking what is meant by a photocopying machine, leading to reasonable exasperation from the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case. The specific deposition, which dates back to 2010, involved the Recorders' Office refusing to hand out electronic documents, but instead telling people who wanted copies of records that they had to pay for them to be printed/photocopied at $2 per page. There's more on the case here, but watch the video first:
As the NYT's Brett Weiner notes:
In this short film, I sought to creatively reinterpret the original events. (I’ve not been able to locate any original video recordings, so I’m unsure how closely my actors’ appearance and delivery resembles the original participants.) My primary rule was the performance had to be verbatim -- no words could be modified or changed from the original legal transcripts. Nor did I internally edit the document to compress time. What you see is, word for word, an excerpt from what the record shows to have actually unfolded. However, I did give the actors creative range to craft their performances. As such, this is a hybrid of documentary and fiction. We’ve taken creative liberties in the staging and performance to imbue the material with our own perspectives.
This is actually a pretty cool way to make use of new digital tools to bring certain news stories to life. While this may just be amusing right now, it'll be interesting to see how else it's used going forward.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2014 @ 4:06am

    This is brilliant. They could create their own YouTube series like this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Nate, May 1st, 2014 @ 4:11am

    I completely lost it the first time the witness said "what do you mean?"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2014 @ 4:24am

    Dammit, laughing at work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    soillodge (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 4:36am

    That was a great conclusion. Brings to mind what a masterful trap successful marketing is. When you forget what a device or product is named and start calling it by the company that created or manufactured it. You can go into any office in the US and ask to make a Xerox and they will understand you. Try going into an office and ask to make a Lexmark.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    ECA (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 4:48am

    reminds me of a customer call..

    Customer:
    I brought it home, I put it together, I push the switch and it didnt work. Whats WRONG??
    Tech:
    Did you plug it in?
    Customer:
    In what?

    I wont continue...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Adam, May 1st, 2014 @ 4:58am

    Anyone else thinking about Prenda right now?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2014 @ 5:02am

    I watched this and laughed
    and at the end of it I listened to the disclaimer..
    And thought so they are saying they had the equivalent to metadata for these transcripts
    but no visual or audio or emotional content representing the actual event

    Feel free to shoot me down on my comments but to me it feels like a good example of how much can be surmised from
    comparatively little information
    and I do understand that this is not a direct comparison of what meter data is but if you had as a one person is meaty data for a year the story it would tell would be enough to build a well rounded representation of who and what that person may be.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    scotts13 (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 5:14am

    I am unsurprised.

    I'm not sure of the job of the guy giving the deposition, but I've met office staff who would not know, specifically, what "photocopy machine" meant. Too technical. They know it as a copier, or a Xerox. In one case, "Ethel" which turned out to be what they'd named their copier, not the person who operated it. "Just take it to Ethel, out in the hall.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    DaveK (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 5:33am

    Re: Feel free to shoot me down.

    You have completely the wrong idea about what metadata is. The transcript is content, not metadata. Metadata would just be a list of who was there and who talked to who at what time, not what they actually said to each other.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    DaveK (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 5:36am

    >"a hybrid of documentary and fiction"

    Say, isn't that exactly what several NYT reporters have gotten into a lot of trouble for producing in the last few years? Heh!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2014 @ 5:36am

    They should clearly call the upcoming Youtube channel, "What's Op-docs?" That looked a lot like a bizarre SNL skit gone horribly wrong.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Fushta (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 5:46am

    Re:

    Best reactions were from the court stenographer.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Gabriel J. Michael (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 6:18am

    Re:

    Actually, Xerox actively fights against people using the word in that way, because it could lead to trademark genericization.

    They took out an ad encouraging people not to say "xerox" when they meant photocopy: http://legalblogwatch.typepad.com/legal_blog_watch/2010/06/xerox-ad-pretends-we-care-about-its-trade mark-rights-to-term-xerox.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Mike (not that Mike, the other Mike), May 1st, 2014 @ 6:25am

    Doesn't SNL do this? I dunno. I'm unlikely to take a video representation of a something over actual video or news article.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anon, May 1st, 2014 @ 7:21am

    Is it just me...

    I was waiting for the guy to ask the simple question right at the beginning, as soon as the evasiveness started. "You put a piece of paper in or on, a paper comes out with a copy - do you have anything like that???" Maybe lawyers tend to be stupid.

    "Let's start at the beginning. You produce paper with printing or images on them. Using what, how? How many of these are there? OK, how many of these have you used? What do you call these things?"

    Either the witness is a total moron, or he's being evasive, or he really is terrified of saying something that may be taken as wrong. But... If he's evasive did he really think he'd escape evenually answering by saying I don't know what you mean?

    Plus, is it the article or also the county guidleines too that use the term charge by the "photocopy"? Your employer issues a guideline of charging per page for "X" and you don't know what "X" is? My vote is on moron.

    (Actually, my vote is on "this is the guy we'll hang out to twist in the wind, and then fire for screwing up so we lost the lawsuit." Explains the extra caution.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, May 1st, 2014 @ 7:25am

    Too much is too little?

    Actual ticket I had seen at work years ago...

    "Please replace my keyboard. It is inadequate as it has too many keys."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Trevor, May 1st, 2014 @ 7:33am

    Re: Is it just me...

    More likely, his Attorney coached him to avoid using "Photocopy" and only to answer VERY SPECIFICALLY and avoid generalizations.

    Happens all the time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    pegr, May 1st, 2014 @ 7:36am

    Re: Re: Feel free to shoot me down.

    Cut him a break. He works for the NSA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 7:45am

    Re: Re:

    Dammit Xerox get with the latest IP corporate program will ya!

    it's not PhotoCopy it's photoThievery!

    /sarc (for those trolls who can't tell the difference)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 7:51am

    Reminds me of one of teh transcripts from a brilliant book called "Disorder in the Courts" (if you have anything remotely to do with the legal profession Read it you will not stop laughing

    :o

    ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
    WITNESS: No.
    ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
    WITNESS: No.
    ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
    WITNESS: No..
    ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
    WITNESS: No.
    ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
    WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
    ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
    WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anon, May 1st, 2014 @ 8:45am

    Re: Re: Is it just me...

    Yes, I was hoping for the follow-up... "Do you consider a Xerox a photocopier?"
    And of course... "is that piece of equipment actually branded 'Xerox' on its front?"

    "Let's explore the depths of your ignorance..."
    "Have you ever heard the word photocopier before..."
    "What do YOU think a photocopier is?"
    "You county guidelines mention cost per photocopy. What did you think that meant?"
    "Have you ever produced paper output in response to a request for information, per your county's guidelines? What did you use? What did they call it when they requested the data from you?"

    Plus, of course, were there any memos about "photocopy" in the county records? Did he sign off on those memos?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2014 @ 9:20am

    Re:

    never gets old.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    wec, May 1st, 2014 @ 10:04am

    what is the definition of 'is'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 10:30am

    Re: Too much is too little?

    Sounds like a good excuse to waste a lunch break popping all the keys off a junk keyboard, then leaving it at their desk with a note saying 'Keyboard replaced, tell me if it still has too many keys.'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 10:34am

    Re: Re: Too much is too little?

    That might be even funnier than what I was thinking -- replace their keyboard with one of those numeric entry keypads.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    redrum, May 1st, 2014 @ 11:00am

    Disorder in the court?

    I'm curious, there are a bunch of books called Disorder in the Court on Amazon.. Which one is this from (author/year)?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, May 1st, 2014 @ 11:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Too much is too little?

    If I could, I would have popped off all but 2 keys.

    Key#1: Porn
    Key#2: Music

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2014 @ 11:26am

    please stop overclaiming for technology

    "...new digital tools"? You mean actors?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 12:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Too much is too little?

    ... where are you getting your office supplies from to have those two as dedicated keys?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    jameshogg (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 12:43pm

    Re:

    It depends what you mean by "Alan Cooper".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Mark Waitangi, May 1st, 2014 @ 1:06pm

    Hook

    Kept thinking of that line from Hook, when Robin Williams was saying he's a lawyer, and the lost boys all say, "Kill the lawyers."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    Anonymous Monkey (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 1:45pm

    Re:

    Me too! .. I was laughing like a hyena for a while there!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    Anonymous Monkey (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re:

    Especially the first time he asked "what do you mean?"
    She had this 'wait, what ?!' look.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    MM_Dandy, May 1st, 2014 @ 2:39pm

    Re:

    Dear God, yes. I would even pay to see The Hansmeier Deposition.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Kronomex, May 1st, 2014 @ 5:33pm

    And this is one of the reasons why fiction can't hold a candle to reality. Terrific stuff.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    DB (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 9:13pm

    It's very clear that the guy was coached by his lawyer, and was being evasive.

    Someone in the room was a moron, and I think that it was the lawyer. He coached the witness on how to be evasive and misleading: ask them to define terms, and try to get them to over-define terms.

    This strategy could work, in narrow contexts. But not when it comes to straight-forward questions about everyday items.


    The opposing lawyer could have handled it better. He was too late switching tactics. If he had asked the witness what he thought a photocopier was a question earlier, he would have him on record.

    Not that it would be much different: any judge reading this would see a witness unwilling to answer a simple question.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    M. Alan Thomas II (profile), May 1st, 2014 @ 9:48pm

    Re:

    Yeah, I made the suggestion when I submitted the link to this story. Any live benchslap would be good, but I particularly want to see Prenda looking like arrogant asses in the NYT.

    This video went viral among all my law friends; I'd love to get an awareness-raising one in there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), May 2nd, 2014 @ 12:51am

    Re: Disorder in the court?

    This one is from Disorder in the Court: Great Fractured Moments in Courtroom History - Charles Sevilla

    Though the other one I have is quite well worth it as well

    Disorderly Conduct: Excerpts from Actual Cases

    Though looking just then at Amazon.. I had to purchase this (2nd hand) Guilty by Reason of Stupidity AWESOMENESS! ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), May 2nd, 2014 @ 12:54am

    Re:

    third person singular present of be.

    To Be or not to BE. IS the question

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), May 2nd, 2014 @ 12:57am

    Re: Re: Disorder in the court?

    For those wondering.. here's some more examples from the book
    http://www.tealdragon.net/humor/lists/courts.htm

    My favourite in them is #11

    Q: When he went, had you gone and had she, if she wanted to and were able, for the time being excluding all the restraints on her not to go, gone also, would he have brought you, meaning you and she, with him to the station?
    Mr. Brooks: Objection. That question should be taken out and shot.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Chat
Techdirt Reading List
Advertisement
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Support Techdirt - Get Great Stuff!

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.