Federal judge allows Court TV to tape proceedings
NEW YORK–In early March, cable programmer Court TV was granted permission to televise the oral argument of a federal District Court case in New York City, despite a policy of the U.S. Judicial Conference which prohibits cameras in federal civil proceedings.
Judge Robert J. Ward held that the District Court’s local General Rule 7 allowed him to issue the order. The rule provides that “No one other than court officials engaged in the conduct of court business shall bring any camera … into any courthouse or its environs without written permission of a judge of that court.”
The case involves a challenge to New York’s troubled child welfare agency.
In his order, Judge Ward wrote that “the profound social, political and legal issues raised by the instant case make it appropriate for broadcast.” Judge Ward also cited Court TV’s promise of “gavel to gavel” coverage for the argument, and noted that since the proceedings consisted solely of legal arguments over motions to dismiss and a motion to deny the plaintiffs’ class action status, there would be no jury and no witnesses present at the hearing.
Judge Ward rejected the government’s argument that televising the hearing could prejudice the trial because of the public’s inability to understand the technical aspects of the motion to dismiss. “This court is unwilling to deny access to information based on the perceived inability of the public to grasp such information,” he wrote. (Marisol v. Giuliani; Media Counsel: Floyd Abrams, New York)