News Flash: Judge Orders Hearing on “Brooklyn DA”

Late this afternoon, Justice Paul Wooten, sitting in Manhattan Supreme Court, ordered a hearing to explore the genesis of CBS’ six-episode series “Brooklyn DA,” which is scheduled to start airing on Tuesday.

The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by Abraham George, one of two challengers seeking to deny Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes’ a seventh term. According to a transcript of a court conference that ended at about 6 p.m., Wooten told the parties that he was ordering CBS to produce all e-mail correspondence between it and Hynes office concerning the series by 11 o’clock tomorrow morning, if possible (Friday, May 24). He also said that he was prepared to sign subpoenas “as urgently as possible” requiring two senior CBS producers in charge of the series to testify at a hearing beginning a 2 p.m.

George’s attorney, Aaron M. Rubin, has also requested that Michel Vecchione, the chief of the district attorney’s rackets division be required to testify. According to an affidavit filed by Jerry Schmetterer, Hynes chief press officer, he and Vecchione negotiated ground rules for the production of the show with Patti Aronofsky, the series’ senior supervising producer.

David Schulz, the lawyer representing CBS, said that he would appeal Wooten’s order, but Wooten denied Schultz’ for a stay of the order requiring a hearing until he is able to request one from the Appellate Division, First Department.

George claims that the show will be an “infomercial ” for Hynes and the series’ six hours of free airtime should be treated as an in-kind contribution to Hynes’ campaign. Under state law, corporations are limited to donations of $5,000. But the U.S Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling permits corporations to buy unlimited amounts of airtime boosting a candidate as long as the ad buys are “independent” of the candidate’s campaign.

The last episode of the show will air on July 2. A likely three way Democratic primary will take place on Sept. 11. The third candidate in the race will be Kenneth P. Thompson, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn. George formerly was a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

According to the Schmetterer affidavit, CBS has maintained complete editorial control over the series.

George Arzt, a spokesman for the Hynes campaign, told the Daily News that Wooten is “just going through due diligence,” adding “We are optimistic about a positive outcome.”



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One response to “News Flash: Judge Orders Hearing on “Brooklyn DA”

  1. Bill

    Is it too much of a stretch to ask whether the programming decisions of CBS amount to “State Action” when they threaten to affect the public voting process?

    In Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944) the Supreme Court declared the White only primary in Texas, unconstitutional. It rejected the claim of the Texas Democratic Party that its exclusion of blacks from membership in the Texas Party was not “state action”, that the Party was a PRIVATE organization and could choose its members. The Court noted that the Party was the indispensable tollgate determining which names would and would not appear on the Texas primary ballot, and, accordingly, that the Party controlled which candidates could and could not run for public office on the Democratic Party slate. The Court found that the Party was directly involved in the public voting process. In these circumstances, the Court held that the membership decision, excluding blacks from Party membership, was “state action”, forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment.

    Retired State Supreme Court Justice William Erlbaum