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Surveillance tapes of indicted judge will stay sealed

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Surveillance tapes of indicted judge will stay sealed

  • A judge ruled that disclosure of grand jury proceedings for publication is impermissible despite the public interest in accusations of corruption in the judicial process.

July 9, 2003 — Video and audio surveillance tapes of a matrimonial court judge accused of taking bribes remain sealed after a Kings County, N.Y., judge on June 30 denied a request by six news organizations to access the tapes.

The tapes were viewed by the grand jury that indicted state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Garson in June. The New York Post, The New York Times, Newsday, New York Daily News, The Associated Press and NBC had sought access.

Grand jury proceedings are secret and a strong presumption of confidentiality attaches to the record of grand jury proceedings, state Supreme Court Justice Steven Fisher wrote in his order denying access.

The media had argued that alleged corruption of the judicial process should be an exception to the historic secrecy of grand juries.

“If ever there were a case where the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in secrecy, this is the case,” media attorney Katherine Bolger wrote in an affidavit submitted to the court.”The videotapes and audiotapes that the news organizations seek contain information that strikes at the very heart of our country’s notion of self-government.”

Fisher acknowledged the public interest that the allegation of “corrupt acts compromised the integrity of the process” and said the release of tapes might add to the public’s understanding. Those interests, however, were not enough to outweigh the considerations of secrecy and privacy. He said the media organizations hadn’t established a particularized and compelling need.

The media also couldn’t overcome precedent that the “disclosure of grand jury evidence solely for the purpose of generalized publication was impermissible,” Fisher said.

In New York, grand jury testimony has been disclosed only for purposes other than public dissemination and after proceedings have concluded, Fisher said.

(NYP Holdings , Inc. Et. Al In Re: To Unseal Evidence Presented to the Grand Jury; Media counsel: Katherine M. Bolger, Hogan & Hartson L.L.P., New York, N.Y.) KH

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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