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Court TV loses bid to lift N.Y. camera ban

Only state to fully prohibit cameras won't change rules
/ Source: Hollywood Reporter

Court TV has lost its attempt to get cameras in the courtrooms of New York.

The New York Court of Appeals denied Court TV’s lawsuit seeking access to trial courtrooms in a decision released Thursday. In the decision, written by Judge G.B. Smith, the court said a 1952 law banning cameras in New York state courtrooms was constitutional and didn’t violate the First Amendment protecting free speech.

The case stems from a September 2001 conflict between Court TV and New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. Court TV had argued that the law was unconstitutional under the First Amendment and state laws of freedom of the press.

New York is the only state with a total ban on cameras in the courtroom. (It has allowed cameras four times since 1987 on a temporary basis.) But the state argued -- and the courts agreed -- that all media are guaranteed access to legal proceedings; it’s just that cameras aren’t allowed.

“This is not a restriction on the openness of court proceedings but rather on what means can be used in order to gather news,” the Court of Appeals wrote. “The media’s access is thus guaranteed. But it does not extend to a right to televise those proceedings.”

The court said that any change to allow cameras in the courtroom would have to be done through the Legislature.

Court TV chairman and CEO Henry Schleiff said the network was disappointed with the ruling but happy that the legislative avenue remained open.

“We completely understand the court’s reluctance to act in place of the Legislature in providing a remedy to our state’s citizens and hope that our legislative representatives will now respond accordingly,” Schleiff said.