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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Better Media Access Coming to N.Y. Courts

MANHATTAN (CN) - Rule changes approved in New York on Tuesday improve the public's ability to use audio-visual equipment when observing or reporting on court proceedings.

Noting that the pre-existing rules "had become antiquated in several significant aspects," the New York State Unified Court System found that they undermined its commitment to making court proceedings open to the public.

While the pre-existing rules dictated the use of long-outdated equipment, the new rules approved Tuesday by the Administrative Board of the Courts make it a matter of judicial discretion to allow or forbid audio-visual equipment in the courts.

A prohibition of excluding witness testimony from live coverage remains in place, but the amended laws confirm the court system's "policy of facilitating audio-visual coverage of court proceedings to the fullest extent permissible by law," according to a statement.

Removing "anachronisms and ambiguities," the new law allows two photographers and one audio system for radio broadcast per courtroom.

Where multiple individuals or media want use of the equipment, they must reach a pooling arrangement.

Neither attorneys nor case parties can limit A/V access by reporters, except in cases of "good cause," according to a statement.

The last time the New York court system amended its rules was in the 1990s, when lawmakers temporarily allowed camera use during trials.

The old rules often required advance permission by parties, judges and attorneys for A/V use.

"The old rules, which were promulgated in the late 1980s, were based on New York's experimental use of cameras in the court," Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said in a statement. "Change was long overdue."

The changes pertaining to administrative proceedings take effect on Feb. 15, 2016. New York's Court of Appeals must still approve the changes pertaining to the state Supreme Court system. This process is slated for early 2016 as well.

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