A trial judge’s order barring Lifetime Entertainment from airing a dramatized movie on the murder of a beloved Appellate Division, Third Department, clerk was an “unconstitutional prior restraint on speech,” the Appellate Division, Third Department, held Thursday in a unanimous opinion.
Porco v. Lifetime Entertainment Services, 516390, stemmed from an action brought by Christopher Porco, who was convicted of the November 2004 axe murder of his father and attempted murder of his mother in their suburban Albany home.
Porco’s father, Peter Porco, had been chief clerk to now-deceased Third Department Presiding Justice Anthony Cardona and was a highly respected and well-liked figure in the local legal community.
Last year, Lifetime Entertainment was about to air a made-for-television movie “Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story,” when Porco brought a pro se action to stop the broadcast, citing state Civil Rights Law.
Supreme Court Justice Robert Muller of Clinton County issued a temporary restraining order days before the program was set to air. Lifetime Entertainment’s attorneys, David Schulz of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz and Michael Grygiel of Greenberg Traurig, obtained an emergency stay from Third Department Justice Elizabeth Garry (See Profile), and the program aired as scheduled.
On the merits, Presiding Justice Karen Peters (See Profile) said that while the general prohibition against prior restraint is “not absolute,” the broadcast of “Romeo Killer” would not “create the type of imminent and irreversible injury to the public” to warrant such an “extraordinary remedy.” She was joined in the decision by justices Garry, Robert Rose (See Profile) and John Egan Jr. (See Profile).