Trials & Litigation

Turn off security cameras in interview area of new $230M courthouse, federal judge says

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A federal judge has ordered those in charge of a new $230 million courthouse in Staten Island, New York, to turn off video cameras that had been running in attorney-client interview rooms.

Although the cameras do not record what is said during pre-arraignment meetings and were intended to enhance security, U.S. District Judge George Daniels agreed with the Legal Aid Society that they violate a 1999 settlement with New York City guaranteeing that consultations between lawyers and clients would be private.

The judge also said in his Tuesday bench ruling that the cameras are “likely violative” of clients’ Sixth-Amendment right to counsel, the New York Law Journal (sub. req.) reports.

Senior counsel Janice Birnbaum of the city’s law department represented New York City at the hearing. She said the cameras were no different than having a security officer observe through a window, which is permitted. “The rule is you can’t pass the information on to prosecutors,” she said.

The judge disagreed. “I can’t accept your argument [that] private consultation is defined by whether the information gets back to the prosecutor,” Daniels said.

A Legal Aid Society news release provides more details about both the current suit and the earlier litigation that led to the 1999 settlement.

It says the group initially wanted the preliminary injunction granted Tuesday by Daniels, ordering the cameras to be turned off. By the conclusion of the current case, however, Legal Aid wants a court order requiring the cameras to be removed.

Hat tip: Staten Island Advance.

Related coverage: “Legal Aid threatens suit over interview-room cameras at new $230M courthouse”

New York Law Journal (sub. req.): “Legal Aid Sues to Remove Cameras in S.I. Courthouse”

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