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MATTER ITHACA JOURNAL NEWS v. CITY COURT ITHACA ET AL. (11/09/68)

SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, SPECIAL TERM, TOMPKINS COUNTY 1968.NY.43437 <http://www.versuslaw.com>; 294 N.Y.S.2d 558; 58 Misc. 2d 73 November 9, 1968 IN THE MATTER OF ITHACA JOURNAL NEWS, INC., ET AL., PETITIONERS,v.CITY COURT OF ITHACA ET AL., RESPONDENTS Bruce G. Dean for petitioners. Matthew F. McHugh for respondents. Walter J. Wiggins, amicus curiae. Howard A. Zeller, J. Author: Zeller


Howard A. Zeller, J.

Author: Zeller

 The petition in this proceeding (brought under CPLR, art. 78) requests an order prohibiting the City Court of the City of Ithaca and the City Court Judge from continuing to assume jurisdiction over a criminal contempt of court proceeding. (The City Prosecutor is not a necessary party to this proceeding and as to him this proceeding should be dismissed.) Petitioners are Ithaca Journal News, Inc., Randall E. Shew, its managing editor and Patricia Nordheimer, one of its reporters. The corporation publishes a daily newspaper, the Ithaca Journal. The criminal contempt of court proceedings were instituted by an order signed by the City Court Judge directing the newspaper corporation and the two individuals to show cause why each should not be adjudged guilty of contempt of court and punished. On the return date of July 12, 1968 a motion was made to dismiss the contempt proceedings on several grounds. The City Judge denied this motion. (See Matter of Wiggins v. Ithaca Journal, 57 Misc. 2d 356.) In his opinion the City Judge writes the newspaper and its editor and reporter "willfully and knowingly flouted" his lawful mandate (pp. 364, 365), but directed a hearing to be held before him on August 22, 1968 to determine answers to five questions (pp. 365, 366). On August 16, 1968 this proceeding in the nature of a writ of prohibition was commenced and the City Court of Ithaca was temporarily restrained by this court from further action in the criminal contempt matter until a determination had been reached in this article 78 proceeding.

The facts necessary for a decision in this proceeding are not in dispute.

Three lads were taken into custody by police officials on June 18, 1968 in connection with a reported theft of gasoline from a boat at a dock on the inlet to Cayuga Lake. Two were 16 years of age, the third under 16 years of age.

The morning of June 19 the two 16-year-old lads were brought before the City Court Judge on charges of petit larceny. Attorney Walter Wiggins appeared for one of the defendants, Attorney Michael Lo Pinto for the other, and City Prosecutor McHugh for the People. Present in the courtroom was Patricia Nordheimer, a reporter for the Ithaca Journal.

The following colloquy took place in open court:

"The Court: O.K. There's two charges here involving minors and there's a possibility that they will become Youthful Offender Treatment. In that event I wouldn't want to prejudice their rights.

"Mr. LoPinto: In that regard, Your Honor, I would like Your Honor to instruct the press not to print anything considering these minors.

"The Court: Do you have any objection?

"Mr. McHugh: I certainly don't. "The Court: Maybe she doesn't even know about the two cases.

"Voice: (Court Clerk) I understand she (the reporter) does.

"The Court: Well, I won't even mention the two cases in court, but it's the direction of the Court that under Section 913 of the Code of Criminal Procedure that since there is a possibility that they will be disposed of as Youthful Offenders, it will be prejudicial under that law to reveal their identity or any contents of the charge."

It should be noted that before giving his direction, the City Court Judge ascertained that the newspaper reporter had knowledge of "the two cases".

The same afternoon the Ithaca Journal published a news article reading, in substance, that three youths had been taken into custody in connection with the reported theft of gasoline from a boat at a dock "on the Inlet", printed the names and addresses of the two 16-year-old youths and stated the charges were for petit larceny. This article made no mention of any court proceedings ...


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