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15 - Justice(s)

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Frédéric Chauvaud

Small cases, colorful trials. Court reporters and “la correctionnelle” (1880-1940)

Le Temps des médias n°15, automne 2010, p. 57-71.


From 1880 to 1940, the “tribunaliers”, i.e., famous court reporters, sometimes stray away from criminal court reports, and focus on less high-profile courts, in particular the “tribunaux correctionnels” and their sometimes uncanny, pathetic affairs. In those articles, taking a comedic tone to the point at times of bawdy “gauloiserie”, they aim to entertain. However, the journalists also denounce, via their chronicles, the operation of the justice system. Indeed, defendants are mainly the unaccounted for, the under-represented – too old, too poor or too young, and the comedy targets circumstances and characters that are unwillingly funny. The “small lawsuits” offer an opportunity to examine the changes of manners in contemporary society and about the purpose of a certain aspect of justice. Here the ribald laughter meets a more satirical laughter.

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