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Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2001

Court TV files lawsuit to gain access in N.Y.

September 6, 2001

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— The Court TV network sued Wednesday in an attempt to allow cameras in New York state trial courtrooms.

The lawsuit seeks to strike down a 1952 law that prevents the media from using cameras in most New York courtrooms. It says the law is unconstitutional.

All 50 states allow cameras to record appeals court proceedings, but 10 states ban them at the trial level. The 40 other states generally allow cameras at the trial level but usually at the discretion of the judge.

Court TV noted that several New York state trial judges have allowed cameras after ruling that the ban is unconstitutional. An judge last year allowed television coverage of the trial of four New York City police officers acquitted in the death of African immigrant Amadou Diallo.

"New York is considered by many to be one of the premier legal centers in the nation, and the cases that are heard in its courts are among the most interesting and important," Court TV Chairman Henry Schleiff said in a statement.

Schleiff argued New Yorkers would gain "a more comprehensive understanding and knowledge of their judicial system" if the law banning cameras was declared unconstitutional.

The lawsuit names Gov. George Pataki, state Attorney Eliot Spitzer and Manhattan Dist. Atty. Robert Morgenthau.

The attorney general "does not believe it's desirable public policy to ban cameras in the courtrooms," said spokesman Darren Dopp. "But we believe the current law is defensible. It's a policy choice by the legislature he is bound to defend."

Morgenthau spokeswoman Barbara Thompson said the office had not seen the lawsuit but supported allowing cameras in the courtroom.

David Boies, Court TV's attorney, said he hoped that if the New York lawsuit was successful the other nine states that ban cameras in trials would change their laws. They are Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Utah.

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