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NPPA Joined by 13 Organizations Files Comments in Support of Electronic Recording and Audio-Visual Coverage of Court Proceedings in NYS

November 13th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The NPPA, joined by 13 other organizations filed comments today with the New York State Office of Court Administration (“OCA”) in support of proposals to revise and update the Unified Court System (“UCS”) rules regarding electronic recording and audio-visual coverage of court proceedings in the state.

The letter also supports proposed revisions to the definition of audio-visual coverage and other proposed clarifications excluding still photography from the definition of audio-visual coverage. Additionally the letter affirms support of the proposed goals set by the Communications & Media Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of New York City: “(i) consistently maintaining the distinction between audio-visual coverage and still photography throughout the rules and using consistent terminology to avoid confusion; (ii) emphasizing that there should be a presumption in favor of permitting both audio-visual and still photographic coverage to the extent consistent with Section 52 of the Civil Rights Law, with ultimate decisions left to the presiding judges; and (iii) eliminating certain restrictions on coverage created or continued by the proposed revisions that go beyond the requirements of Section 52.”

It urges OCA “to exercise its authority to ensure that New York’s court system, which has been a beacon of progressive policies for the nation, does not fall further behind than it already has under some of the anachronistic rules promulgated at a time when televisions used vacuum tubes and at best could receive 12 channels, broadcast in black & white for a few hours a day.”

Addressing those opposed to the proposed changes, NPPA general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher wrote, “the tired arguments that camera coverage will: prejudice a defendant’s fair trial rights, their right of privacy, the prosecution’s ability to have witnesses comply with subpoenas, as well as the detrimental effect cameras will have on lawyers, judges, and other participants are just that – threadbare and unsubstantiated. But the more crucial point is not how cameras affect either side in a litigation. It is whether cameras will increase the public’s confidence in our justice system. Nothing is more fundamental to our democratic system of governance than the right of the people to know how their government is functioning on their behalf. That, we submit, is a higher value which should drive the debate here; and is the central point about which the Bar Association, the Unified Court System and, indeed, the legislature should be concerned.”

The groups joining in the letter were: Associated Press Media Editors, Associated Press Photo Managers, The Deadline Club/New York City Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Media Law Resource Center, New York News Publishers Association, New York Press Photographers Association, New York State Broadcasters Association, Inc., The NewsGuild of New York Local 31003, CWA, North Jersey Media Group, Online News Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Scripps Media, Inc., d/b/a WKBW-TV and Society of Professional Journalists.

Posted in Access, Cameras, Cameras in the Courtroom, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism | No Comments »

Join NPPA Now!

September 10th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , ,

To those of you who read the Advocacy Blog or follow us on Facebook and who support NPPA through their membership – thank you. To those considering joining or renewing their lapsed memberships please get off your best intentions and do it today (https://nppa.org/join-nppa). For those of you who just take a free ride by viewing the news and information provided by NPPA on our website, Twitter and Facebook, I urge you to join now.

NPPA cannot do the advocacy it does without members and money. It cannot take a leadership position, where 32 major news organizations joined in a letter that I drafted to convince the Governor of California to veto a constitutionally suspect drone bill (http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/09/10/california-drones-veto-governor-jerry-brown-news-photographers/71987132/), without you.

Aside from your actual dues NPPA receives money from a copyright organization based upon our membership numbers – so think of joining as part of a matching fund. It is unfortunate to report that our membership numbers continue to decrease when commonsense would expect just the opposite.

If you want our advocacy efforts to continue, but moreover, if you want NPPA to continue to be heard as the strong “Voice of Visual Journalists” then please support us and join today!

Posted in National Press Photographers Association, NPPA | No Comments »

Coalition For Court Transparency Requests Live Broadcast Of Same-Sex Marriage Cases In Letter To Chief Justice Roberts

January 28th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , ,

January 28, 2015 – Washington, D.C. — In a letter to U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, the Coalition for Court Transparency today requested “that audio-visual coverage of oral arguments in the same-sex marriage cases be broadcast live, enabling the world to witness history as it happens.”

“We hope that the Court takes this historic moment as an opportunity to move into a new era of openness by permitting live audio-visual coverage of the arguments in the same-sex marriage cases,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association.

In addition to the historical nature of the cases, the Coalition highlighted how this act of transparency could burnish the Court’s reputation.

“In our modern era, an institution’s legitimacy is often driven by the public’s perception of its openness and transparency,” the letter said. “When decisions are made in cases that provoke strong emotions, transparency allows the public to be assured that the process was fair and that the institution is functioning properly. Simply put: televising the oral arguments will ultimately strengthen the public’s perception of the Court by imbuing its result with greater legitimacy.”

“Recent polling shows three-quarters of Americans support televising Supreme Court proceedings,” said Alex Armstrong, spokesperson for the Coalition. “Oral arguments in the upcoming marriage cases will be historic, and the whole nation will be eager to follow along. There’s no better time to turn on the cameras.”

The full letter is can be read OpenSCOTUS_Letter 01-27-15

Posted in Access, Cameras in the Courtroom, Coalition for Court Transparency, First Amendment, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, SCOTUS, US Supreme Court | No Comments »

NPPA Discouraged by SCOTUS Continued Refusal to Allow Cameras in Its Courtroom

March 25th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , ,

Unfortunately the U.S. Supreme Court continues to refuse to change its position on cameras in its courtroom.  The Coalition for Court Transparency recently sent a letter to the Chief Justice requesting him to reconsider the High Court’s longstanding policy barring audio-visual coverage of its proceedings. The Court’s Public Information Officer timely responded by saying “there are no plans to change the Court’s current practices” whereby they will continue to make audio recordings of all oral arguments available on the Court’s website “at the end of each argument week” and written transcripts of those arguments “on the same day the argument is heard.” r

NPPA Executive Director Charles W.L. (“Chip”) Deale, reacted to the Court’s letter by stating, “NPPA is grateful that the Supreme Court at least showed the courtesy of responding to a letter from the Coalition for Court Transparency (of which NPPA is a member) calling for cameras to be allowed during Court proceedings. However, the Court’s continued intransigence on this important issue is highly discouraging and, NPPA believes, a disservice to American citizens.  Via the Coalition, NPPA will continue to advocate for greater transparency by the Court.”

Responding for the Coalition, Bruce Brown of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, to whom the court’s letter was addressed, said: “I am appreciative that the Supreme Court responded to our coalition’s letter. I do believe that the smallest of changes to the court’s institutional practices would increase the public’s understanding of and appreciation for the court’s work. I hope that this marks the beginning of a dialogue between the court and those of us who care deeply about press freedom and increasing transparency at our most important judicial institution.”

Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director said, “RTDNA is very disappointed in the Supreme Court’s reluctance to even consider further our request to provide more transparency,” added .  “We firmly believe the actions taken by the Court are of sufficient importance and impact to all Americans to warrant providing video coverage of the arguments the Justices hear.”

As the Coalition stated in its letter to Chief Justice Roberts, “we believe the Supreme Court should embrace contemporary expectations of transparency by public officials and allow the recording and broadcast of its courtroom proceedings. Following Justice John Marshall Harlan’s concurrence in Estes v. Texas (1965), we believe the ‘day’ has long since passed ‘when television [has] become so commonplace an affair in the daily life of the average person as to dissipate all reasonable likelihood that its use in courtrooms may disparage the judicial process.’”

Posted in Access, Cameras in the Courtroom, Coalition for Court Transparency, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, Open Government, OpenSCOTUS, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, SCOTUS, US Supreme Court | No Comments »

NPPA Joins Coalition for Court Transparency

February 18th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) announced that it had joined the Coalition for Court Transparency (CCT). Citing long lines outside the Supreme Court and the millions of Americans who are interested in, and affected by, the Court’s decisions but unable to see cases being argued, this new alliance of media and legal organizations from across the political spectrum today launched a television ad campaign calling on the justices to allow cameras to televise oral arguments.

The Coalition is taking the unprecedented step of using an ad campaign to draw attention to the lack of transparency in this powerful branch of government and to urge the Justices to change this outdated restriction.

“NPPA strongly believes in greater transparency at the U.S. Supreme Court.  Our support of the bipartisan coalition underscores our belief that the collective voice of CCT-member organizations ultimately can bring about the necessary changes in court policy,” said NPPA president Mark J. Dolan.

While Congress has debated bipartisan, bicameral bills intended to compel Supreme Court justices to allow cameras over the last 15 years, legal experts agree that the justices could simply decide today to allow cameras – and Monday’s cases regarding the Environment Protection Agency and its authority to address greenhouse gas pollution would be televised. In the past C-SPAN officials have stated that the station would broadcast all of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments if allowed.

Currently, to attend Supreme Court hearings, individuals must stand in line outside the building on First Street NE and wait to be ushered in. There are roughly 400 seats in the courtroom, so many people hoping to view the arguments are unable to, especially in cases that have broad public interest, such as the marriage equality, voting rights, and affirmative action cases last term and the campaign finance, recess appointments, and public prayer cases this term. For these types of cases, interested parties must often line up hours, if not days, in advance of the arguments and in some instances pay thousands of dollars to “line-standers” to hold their places for them.

In addition to NPPA, members of the Coalition for Court Transparency are: Alliance for Justice, American Society of News Editors, Constitutional Accountability Center, Liberty Coalition, National Association of Broadcasters, National Press Foundation, OpenTheGovernment.org, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Society for Professional Journalists.

“As one element in our democracy’s system of checks and balances, the U.S. Supreme Court is a vital institution that increasingly is growing in importance.  As such, NPPA believes that citizens have a right to view broadcasts of the court’s oral arguments and announcements of its opinions on cases,” said NPPA Executive Director Charles W. L. (“Chip”) Deale.

Despite the Supreme Court’s own reluctance on cameras, Americans have greater access to high-level judicial hearings elsewhere in the country. All 50 state supreme courts permit recording equipment to varying degrees, and on the federal level the Judicial Conference of the United States has placed cameras in 14 federal courts as part of a three-year, multi-district pilot program to study the effect of broadcasting federal court proceedings.

As the Voice of Visual Journalists since 1946, the NPPA has long advocated for cameras in the courtroom on the state and federal level as the lack of transparency erodes public confidence in the Court. Our general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher, has written extensively about the subject and we believe the first way for the public to learn about and understand U.S. Supreme Court decisions is for citizens to be able to watch and hear those cases being announced by and argued before the court.

The ad, a 30-second television spot titled “Everywhere,” will run nearly 300 times in the Washington, D.C., market on cable news outlets over the next few weeks.   The Coalition also announced today that through its website, OpenSCOTUS.com, concerned Americans can sign an online petition calling on Chief Justice John Roberts to allow cameras in the Court.

“Everywhere” script

“The Supreme Court’s decisions impact the lives of Americans everywhere. But only a privileged few get to witness history and see justice in action. Leading Republicans and Democrats and a large majority of Americans support a simple fix – putting cameras in the Supreme Court. State and federal courts allow cameras in the interest of transparency. Shouldn’t our nation’s top court do the same? It’s time for a more open judiciary. It’s time for cameras in the Supreme Court. Find out more and take action at OpenSCOTUS.com.”

To view the ad, visit OpenSCOTUS.com.

For more information contact Mickey H. Osterreicher at 716.983.7800 or [email protected]

For more information about the Coalition for Court Transparency, please contact CCT spokesperson Gabe Roth at 202-464-6919 (office), 312-545-8556 (cell) or [email protected].

URL: http://www.OpenSCOTUS.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/OpenSCOTUS

Facebook: http://facebook.com/OpenSCOTUS

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/openscotus

Change.org petition:​ https://www.change.org/petitions/chief-justice-john-roberts-it-s-time-for-cameras-in-the-supreme-court-3

Posted in Access, broadcasting, Cameras in the Courtroom, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Open Government, photographers, photojournalism, SCOTUS, US Supreme Court, Visual Journalists | No Comments »

New York Lawmakers Urged to Allow Cameras In The Courtroom

January 4th, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , ,

As a new legislative session approaches, the NPPA is hopeful that the New York State legislature will finally permit cameras in the courtroom. To that end, the NPPA drafted a letter signed by 36 media organizations, to Governor Andrew Cuomo expressing its support for expanded audiovisual coverage of courtroom proceedings.

There’s evidence that the tide is already turning on the issue in New York.  In a speech last year, New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced a legislative proposal to expand camera coverage of courtroom proceedings.  Ultimately, however, it is the legislature’s prerogative to establish more permissive access laws.  The benefits from such a move would be significant, explained NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher:

“It will bring transparency to the judicial system, provide increased accountability from litigants, judges, and the press and educate citizens about the judicial process. Audio-visual coverage will allow the public to ensure that proceedings are conducted fairly, and, by extension, that government systems are working correctly.  We expect that the watchful eye of the public will demand increased accountability from all courtroom participants. Claims of sensationalistic or inaccurate reporting will be readily verifiable by a public able to view the underlying proceedings for itself.”

Osterreicher pointed to a series of empirical studies and experiments that tend to refute claims that audiovisual equipment is obtrusive and hinders defendant’s fair trial rights. The evolution of both audiovisual equipment and broadcast media stands at the core of the discussion.  Simply put, the traditional justifications offered for banning cameras from the courtroom are no longer a concern.

“There are no more whirling, noisy cameras. There are no more glaring lights.  Nor does a thundering herd of technicians have to go in and out of the courtroom to set up and tear down their gear.  Modern equipment is inaudible, requires no additional lighting and can be operated by a limited number of trained professionals,” noted Osterreicher. Further, “their presence in the courtroom and the images that they convey provide a compelling public service without infringing upon the constitutional or statutory rights of any affected persons or institutions. Respect for the dignity, decorum and safety of the courthouse is not only maintained but enhanced by having cameras in the courtroom,” he said.

The expansion of cable broadcasting and the Internet is also critical, as media groups are now free from time and programming constraints and can often show live feeds of courtroom proceedings from start to finish.

Osterreicher added that any legislation should allow judges the discretion necessary to permit cameras while preserving the rights of litigants and the sanctity of the courtroom.

The desirability of the free exchange of ideas is one of the foundational tenants of the First Amendment.  As such, lawmakers should look closely at the rationale for any policy that places a bottleneck on the flow of information, Osterreicher said.

“Society can ill afford to let the arbitrary and speculative objections of some antagonistic to the electronic press infringe upon the public’s right to observe proceedings in our courts by lens-capping the very means by which modern society receives news and information.”

Numerous states have considered measures similar to those contemplated in New York, and Congress has even considered passing legislation to reverse the longtime ban on cameras in the Supreme Court, the most recent effort stalling in Senate committee last June.

The NPPA had previously submitted an amicus brief to the New York State Court of Appeals supporting cameras in the courtroom the last time this issue came before the court in 2005.

Posted in Access, Cameras, Cameras in the Courtroom, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism | No Comments »

Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Camera Ban In Murder Case

November 5th, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , ,

The Virginia Supreme Court has upheld a trial court decision refusing to allow cameras in the courtroom during the sentencing phase of a highly publicized murder trial.

In early 2012, a jury found University of Virginia lacrosse player George W. Huguely guilty of murdering his girlfriend, fellow lacrosse player Yeardley Love.

The case garnered national attention from its earliest days, leading a circuit court judge to deny a Virginia broadcaster’s request to have cameras present during the trial.  In its request to have the court open up the sentencing phase, the broadcaster argued that the due process concerns related to the trial itself were no longer a factor.

Whether cameras will unfairly prejudice a defendant’s fair trial rights is a common point of contention, both in specific cases and as a general premise.  In this instance, however, a state statute afforded the judge “sole discretion” to determine whether to allow cameras in court.  Relying on legislative history and the plain language of the statute, the court denied the broadcaster’s claim that the judge had to show “good cause” before banning cameras.

The Virginia Supreme Court found that the trial court judge had not abused his discretion by considering the effect of cameras on witnesses at the sentencing hearing, nor was it an abuse of discretion to consider how additional media coverage might impact potential witnesses at a pending civil trial. “it is very disappointing that in 2013 some judges still adhere to the archaic belief that cameras in the courtroom still have a negative impact on trial proceedings,” said NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher. “It is even more unfortunate that this now commonplace medium of communications must still bear the burden of justifying its presence, which is contrary to so many First Amendment presumptions,” Osterreicher added.

Even so, the court also dismissed those First Amendment claims, noting that “neither the Supreme Court of the United States nor this Court have held that a broadcaster has a constitutional right to use cameras in court to gather and report the news.”

Posted in Access, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, Photographers' Rights | No Comments »

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