BY THE RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE
A state court judge in Manhattan heard arguments this week in a lawsuit by Court TV seeking to allow cameras into New York courtrooms. The suit challenges a state law making it a crime to televise court proceedings under virtually any circumstances. The United States Constitution requires that criminal and civil trials be open to the public. In the modern world, television cameras make it possible for the public to observe the justice system. New York’s law should be struck down.
The statute being challenged, Section 52 of the Civil Rights Law, makes it illegal to televise virtually any proceeding that includes compelled testimony by witnesses. The law was passed in the McCarthy era, when televised hearings were used to embarrass and intimidate suspected Communists; those hearings were apparently the law’s main target. Over the years, the Legislature has authorized four ”experiments” allowing cameras into the courts for limited periods. After the last of these, a committee led by John Feerick, then the dean of Fordham Law School, concluded that ”almost 10 years of experience argue in favor of allowing cameras in the courts on a permanent basis.”
Keeping trials open is important because people have a right to know that criminals are being punished, and defendants’ rights respected. And civil litigation is how the nation resolves many important policy issues, like tobacco companies’ liability and abortion rights. The most effective way to observe courtroom proceedings is through television.
Don’t make civil societies criminal by placing cameras on city streets, put cameras in the courtrooms where jurisprudence is now at s fall and a divide. JonAk- AWOLL (AmericaOnCoffee/AOC)