Student wins freedom of information lawsuit


Court rules CUNY must allow meetings to be tape-recorded





NEW YORK -- A September New York Supreme Court ruling has\naffirmed the applicability of the state's freedom of information\nlaw to the City University of New York.

The decision came after Neil Schuldiner, a student journalist\nat the College of Staten Island, sued his school for conducting\na controversial vote by secret ballot and prohibiting him and\nanother student from tape recording its meeting.

"I thought it was ridiculous that they invited student\njournalists to a meeting and then didn't allow us to record it,"\nSchuldiner said.

Schuldiner's attorney, Ronald McGuire, said his client wanted\nto set up a test case to see if the state's open-meetings law\nand freedom of information law both apply to CUNY college associations.\n

In a previous ruling, Smith v. City University of New York,\nthe New York Court of Appeals said the open-meetings law does\napply to CUNY associations. The Schuldiner v. City University\nof New York court held that the freedom of information law\napplies to CUNY associations as well.

The New York Supreme Court ruled that the association's vote\nto bar tape recordings at its meeting violated the open-meetings\nlaw and ordered those votes void. It also prevented the defendants\nfrom further prohibiting the use of hand-held tape recorders.\nThe court, however, refused to award Schuldiner attorney's fees.\n

According to McGuire, this decision is the court's "prerogative,"\nbecause under open meetings laws, attorneys' fees are optional.\n

Schuldiner, however, feels more strongly that McGuire, who\ntook the case pro bono, should be compensated for his work.

"It's hard for students to find attorneys who are willing\nto take these kinds of cases and pretty much do them for free,"\nSchuldiner said. "I know he worked many, many hours on the\ncase, and he should have been remunerated by CUNY."

Overall, both Schuldiner and his attorney feel that the case\nwas a victory.

"The law is clear," McGuire said. "At this point,\nthe applicability of the freedom of information law and the open\nmeetings law with response to the College of Staten Island has\nbeen affirmed"


reports, Winter 1999-2000