Lawyers Assail Glittering Staten Island Courthouse

     (CN) – Staten Island’s new $230 million courthouse is pockmarked with cameras that will record attorney-client interviews, the Legal Aid Society claims, vowing to sue.
     The threat Monday came on opening day of the new Criminal and Supreme Courthouses.
     New York City officials sang its praises as the beginning of a new era in a borough still reeling from the damages of hurricane Sandy and the death of Eric Garner in police choke-hold.
     But Legal Aid says the city has “blatantly violated attorney/client confidentially rights” by placing cameras inside arraignment interview booths.
     “We have long waited for the new courthouse to serve the community of Richmond County,” the nonprofit’s attorney-in-chief Seymour James said in a statement.
     “We however are dismayed at the city’s violation of our client’s right to confidentiality inside the walls of the new Staten Island Courthouse.”
     James added that the “city’s decision to blatantly disregard the Sixth Amendment defies any notion of fair play.”
     Noting that no other supreme court has such cameras, the agency said even the holding pens on Rikers Island, where the city process most arrestees, are afforded privacy.
     “Nothing is more fundamental to notions of justice and fundamental fair trial rights than the sanctity of the attorney-client relationship,” James said. “The very bedrock of this consequential right under the Sixth Amendment is the notion that communications between a client and his or her lawyer are privileged.”
     There is no sign of the lawsuit as of Tuesday morning, and the nonprofit legal group that represents the poor and disenfranchised has not specified where or when it intends to file.
     Garner was 43 when he was placed in the chokehold in 2014 while selling loose cigarettes near the Staten Island Ferry.
     Though a medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, a grand jury cleared NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo of any wrongdoing.
     Transcripts of their deliberations remain secret. Though several groups want the documents released , the Daily News reported that Judge William Garnett shot them down last week.
     A bystander who filmed Garner’s confrontation by police posted the footage on YouTube.
     Garner’s final gasps, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for a swelling movement across the nation to end police brutality against minorities.
     The prosecutor who oversaw the Garner grand jury deliberations now represents the island in the U.S. House of Representatives after winning a special election in May.
     Daniel Donovan’s predecessor in Congress, Michael Grimm, resigned after pleading guilty to federal tax-evasion charges for underreporting earnings in a short-lived health food restaurant in Manhattan. He was sentenced to eight months in prison.
     Staten Island was New York City’s hardest-hit borough when Sandy ripped through in 2012.
     The Legal Aid Society said it will be supported by the law firm of White & Case in its fight over cameras in the courthouse.

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