The Appellate Division, First Department, has instituted live video streaming of its oral arguments, bringing it in step with the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s three other Appellate Division departments and many federal courts around the country.
The move to live video began Tuesday and is a permanent change to the court. The streaming can be accessed by visiting the court’s website at www.nycourts.gov/courts/ad1/index.shtml. The move was considered overdue by some who had noted that the other departments and the state’s high court had already decided in recent years to livestream arguments.
In addition to live video of the court’s arguments, the First Department will make a digital archive of oral arguments available on its website for on-demand viewing, generally within five business days, it said in a news release this week. Except for part of each summer, the court hears arguments Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, totaling 22 or 23 arguments a week.
In an interview Thursday, Presiding Justice Rolando Acosta said that he had spearheaded the shift to livestreaming, making it a priority after entering the presiding justice position in May.
“One of my major priorities is to modernize the court,” he said. “I spent the entire summer examining the court from head to toe.”
He said video streaming will make the court and its processes more transparent.
“Access to justice, to me, is critical to the level of confidence that people have in our courts and in the judicial system,” he said. Adding, “It is important for us to demystify the judicial process, it engenders a confidence in the courts. People can see the rigor in how justice is delivered.”
He also noted that while there are always traditionalists who “would like to adhere to a different notion as to how accessible a court should be,” he believed that in the current day and age few members of the bar would be against the streaming of arguments.
Acosta declined to comment on why the First Department had lagged behind the other departments and the Court of Appeals in instituting livestreaming. But he noted that he began looking into the issue almost right away after being appointed presiding justice.
“I not only got it done quickly but I got it done with the support of the [state's] chief judge, who is a major proponent of access to justice,” he said.
In April, former longtime First Department Justice David Saxe, and his law partner Danielle Lesser, both of whom are partners at Morrison Cohen, wrote a column in the Law Journal outlining why they believed the department should begin livestreaming.
“We believe that the First Department should promote transparency,” they wrote, adding, “Adopting this approach would be a long overdue policy change that would enable the First Department to keep pace with the digital age as well as other important appellate courts.”
The First Department’s jurisdiction is Manhattan and the Bronx, and it is one of the busiest appeals courts in the nation, handling appeals as of right from the counties’ Supreme Courts, Surrogate’s Courts, Family Courts and Court of Claims. It is considered one of the most sophisticated state appeals courts in the nation and, along with the Delaware Court of Chancery and London’s commercial court, is viewed by many as a world leader in resolving complex commercial disputes.
Janet DiFiore, chief judge of the state, said in the news release, “I am pleased that members of the public will now be able to observe this pre-eminent court in action in real time from the convenience of their computer or mobile device.”
She added, “The Appellate Division, First Department’s implementation of livestreaming is yet another example of the Unified Court System’s ongoing efforts to harness technology to educate the public about the judiciary’s vital work and build public trust in the courts as an institution.”
The court’s oral arguments will be screened to prevent the disclosure of confidential information, and that information will not be included in the digital archive, the court also noted in its release.