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NY Chief Judge: Cameras Should Be Back In Courtrooms

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The Chief Judge of New York says the state should allow the broadcast of court proceedings in an open and consistent manner.

Jonathan Lippman recently called on lawmakers in Albany to approve legislation to permit greater access to New York courtrooms by broadcast journalists.

Speaking today on WNBF Radio’s Binghamton Now program, Lippman said “if you’re able to see it in the courtroom, you ought to be able to see it wherever you are.”

Lippman said the court system should be open to the public in every way. With modern cameras relatively unobtrusive, the chief judge said “there’s absolutely no reason” why court proceedings shouldn’t be broadcast to anyone who wants to see them.

For ten years, New York state courtrooms were open to broadcast coverage but the law that permitted that access was allowed to sunset after ten years.

Lippman said the electronic media coverage of proceedings had become relatively common during that period. He said the coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial in California “sort of put a damper” on the idea of allowing cameras in courtrooms for some people because of the “theatrical” nature of the proceedings.

Despite those concerns, Lippman said the use of cameras to let people see what really happens in courts is educational.

Lippman said studies in New York have indicated cameras have no effect on courtroom proceedings. He said people quickly become acclimated to the presence of a camera.

The chief judge said steps can be taken to protect the identities of witnesses and others, if necessary.

Lippman said he doesn’t know how Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders feel at the moment about his call to restore broadcast coverage to New York courts. He said he’s hoping for a “robust dialogue” about the proposal.

Lippman said to not allow cameras into courtrooms seems “just wrong” and outdated. He said New York judges will “overwhelmingly” see that the move would be good for them and good for the public.

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