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Efforts to extend cameras experiment met with resistance

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Efforts to extend cameras experiment met with resistance 06/16/97 NEW YORK--The New York legislature continues to feel the backlash of…

Efforts to extend cameras experiment met with resistance

06/16/97

NEW YORK–The New York legislature continues to feel the backlash of the O.J. Simpson trial as it considers legislation concerning camera access to courtrooms.

Sen. James Lack (R-Long Island), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, blamed the trial for the state legislature’s reluctance to make permanent a law allowing cameras in courtrooms on an experimental basis. A bill being considered by the state legislature in early June would extend the 10-year experiment for an additional two years. The bill must pass before the end of June, or the cameras experiment will come to an end.

The experiment covers both civil and criminal cases in trial and appellate courts.

Arguing that one would not cancel a newspaper subscription because of one bad story, Sen. Martin Connor (D-Brooklyn/Manhattan), the Senate’s minority leader, said that the Simpson trial should be viewed as the exception to how televised trials operate, rather than the rule.

Diane Kennedy, president of the New York Newspaper Publishers Association, was a member of a panel appointed by Governor George Pataki that recommended in April that the law become permanent. She said that keeping cameras out of the courtrooms allows the flaws of the system to be hidden, while at the same time permitting legislators to retain the power to control the media’s access to a major aspect of government. In mid-June she said she now fears that the law may not even be extended on an experimental basis.

Connor said that the Simpson trial should not be used as an excuse to continue to pass temporary extensions of the law, which was originally enacted as an experiment in 1987. (S.B. 4814A)