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S.F. COURT TRIMS HOURS OF OPERATION Starting next month, hours will be a little different in San Francisco’s civil courthouse. The clerk’s office for civil and probate filings, Room 103 in the superior court’s McAllister Street building, will close Wednesday afternoons, said Civil Court Administrator Elena Simonian. The office’s doors will shut at noon, and anyone still in line after that will be asked to submit their papers for processing later in the day, according to a statement from the court. Also, activity in courtrooms after noon on Wednesdays will be limited to settlement conferences, so that courtroom staff can be freed up to help file and process papers in the clerk’s office, Simonian said. Due to a hiring freeze that began about a year and a half ago, 10 percent to 12 percent of the jobs at the courts are vacant, Simonian said. “The closure is basically to make up for staff time,” she explained, “because the work has not decreased.” Schedules at the criminal courts and offices at the Hall of Justice will not be affected. The extent of the court’s budget worries for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, won’t be clear until the governor’s budget is finalized, Simonian added. Several attorneys aware of the court’s budget situation have asked if they can help, Simonian noted. Pro bono clerical work from lawyers’ mail clerks or secretaries is one of the ideas being explored, she said. – Pam Smith N.Y. DEBATE RAGES ON COURTROOM CAMERAS NEW YORK — There were no cameras in Justice Shirley Kornreich’s courtroom Thursday, and the judge seemed skeptical that news organizations had a constitutional right to bring them there. “This is a policy question, is it not?” the acting Supreme Court justice asked David Boies of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, who is representing Court TV in a suit that contends New York’s ban on cameras in court, enacted in 1952, is unconstitutional. The judge’s remarks came during an hour-long hearing at New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, about a year and a half after Court TV filed a declaratory judgment action to wipe the camera ban — � 52 of New York Civil Rights Law — off the books. New York is one of just nine states that still bans cameras at trial courts, and at least nine courts in the state have reached different conclusions on the constitutionality and scope of the statute. For example, does the ban apply to all audio and visual devices, but not still photography? Or only television cameras? Does it differentiate between witnesses who are subpoenaed and those who are not? Court TV brought its suit in hopes of answering those questions once and for all. The declaratory judgment action argues that there is no rational basis for � 52, which relies on now-invalid assumptions like the bulky and disruptive nature of cameras. It also contends that � 52 is invalid under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and, more important, the New York Constitution. – The New York Law Journal

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