ALBANY, N.Y. — Court TV today lost its bid to reverse New York state's ban on cameras in the courtroom as the state's highest court ruled there is no constitutional right to televise court proceedings.
In a 7-0 decision, the Court of Appeals ruled that no constitutional rights are being violated by keeping television cameras out of the courtroom. The court said it is the Legislature's job to decide whether trials may be televised.
"In New York state, the decision whether or not to permit cameras in the courtroom is a legislative prerogative," Judge George Bundy Smith wrote in Courtroom Television Network v. State of New York.
In arguments before the Court of Appeals in April, Court TV's lawyer, David Boies, said the state constitution provides the right of public access to courts and assures the right of the press to cover those proceedings. The cable television network dedicated to legal affairs argued New York law unfairly bans television reporters and their news-gathering crews from fair access to courts.
Boies, Al Gore's chief lawyer in the 2000 presidential election-recount battle, also noted that 43 states allow television-camera access to courtrooms.
Court TV sued the state and the Manhattan district attorney's office in 2001, arguing the ban is an infringement on protected freedoms and tells news organizations how to gather the news.
State lawyers argued that although the press has the right to cover trials, that right doesn't extend to television, which they said can influence judges, lawyers, witnesses and jurors. The state also noted that eight federal circuit courts have found no constitutional right for television coverage of courts.
The Court of Appeals agreed.
Civil rights law "does not prevent the press, including television journalists, from attending trials and reporting on the proceedings," Smith wrote. "What they cannot do under the statute is bring cameras into the courtroom. This is not a restriction on the openness of court proceedings but rather on what means can be used in order to gather news."
New York state allowed audiovisual coverage of court proceedings for nearly 10 years until enabling legislation lapsed on June 30, 1997.
Boies and State Solicitor General Caitlin Halligan did not immediately return calls for comment.