In July 2003, the Supreme Court for New York County, a trial court, ruled against Court TV's challenge to the constitutionality of the New York state law barring television cameras from trial courts. (See Courtroom Television Network, LLC. v. State of New York, 2003 WL 21787909 (N.Y. Sup. 2003).)
Court TV filed suit in September 2001, seeking a declaratory judgment that the section of New York's Civil Rights Law banning audio and visual broadcasting equipment from trial courts violated the First Amendment. The network also asked the court to forbid further enforcement of the law.
Judge Shirley Werner Kornreich denied Court TV's request, ruling that nothing in the state law undermined citizens' right to attend trials and that "audio-visual coverage of trials is neither prohibited nor required under the First Amendment." Accordingly, Kornreich said, a court may impose reasonable restrictions on broadcast coverage of court proceedings.
Kornreich's opinion includes a detailed discussion of the history of New York's stance on broadcasting court proceedings, describing the state's 10-year experiment which allowed televised criminal trials in some situations. The law expired under its own terms and was not reenacted.
Court TV, represented by David Boies, said it would appeal the July 15 ruling.
In her opinion, Kornreich states that it is difficult to pin down state-court policies in "what is essentially a national patchwork quilt of policies."
"Still," the judge wrote, "it is undisputed that today, a substantial majority of states permit audio visual coverage of trial court proceedings."