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In NY, justice courts are to record proceedings, except when there is a court stenographer.

Are these recordings court records?

If they are court records, and the case has not been sealed, or the criminal case not been dismissed, are they inspectable by the public?

  • Short answer: yes. They are public records and can be inspected. I think you can have a copy made of the original for a modest charge for the cost of doing so. I think that the original must remain in court custody. I do not think that they are retained as long as court records on paper are and the formats of older ones (if retained) may be hard to utilize. – ohwilleke Jul 13 '17 at 21:04
  • @ohwilleke, do you have a definitive cite which shows they are "public records"? That would be helpful. – mongo Jul 13 '17 at 23:29
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If the parallel holds with English courts, then these are indeed court records. The recording itself is not made available to the public, to avoid tampering; but it is possible to have a particular recording transcribed by a court-approved stenographer, and (after approval by the judge, to ensure no egregious errors slipped through and the case was not heard in private) the transcript made available to the public like any other document. There is of course a fee for transcription; like any other fee, it can be waived by the judge but like any other fee the judges are asked not to waive it except in exceptional circumstances.

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  • Creating the transcript, as opposed to inspection of the recording, converts the record to a different species. It would seem that requiring that to happen effectively bars direct access to the record, as provided by UCJA 2019-a. – mongo Jul 13 '17 at 20:48
  • @mongo: I don't read it that way. You might need a New York lawyer to be certain: but if you think that rule gives you automatic access to every rough note the judge made you will be disappointed. – Tim Lymington Jul 13 '17 at 21:12
  • I don't think it gives access to judge's notes. The records and dockets of the court except as otherwise provided by law shall be at reasonable times open for inspection to the public. from codes.findlaw.com/ny/uniform-justice-court-act/… Also, from the Office of Court Admin Justice Handbook: udiciary Law § 2, "all Justice Court proceedings are subject to electronic recording" So my read is that the recording is part of the record. – mongo Jul 13 '17 at 23:28
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    @mongo Not really. That's reading the law the way you want it to read. "The record" refers simply to what occurred in the court. You are not guaranteed access to your preferred format, only the format the court feels like providing. That's why the court uses their own stenographers - to ensure that the transcribed version is the same as the recorded version. If someone believes the stenographer is transcribing incorrectly, that's a matter for the proper authorities to investigate. In short: if the law doesn't specify you have access to all formats, you only have access to a format. – animuson Jul 14 '17 at 2:50

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