Student reporter opens N.Y. taxi court's doors

NEW YORK -- A student at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism is headed where no reporter has gone before.

In March, a state court ruled that journalist Daniel L. Ackman has the right to attend hearings of the city's taxi and limousine commission. Ackman requested permission to attend the hearings in January to obtain information about the lives of taxi drivers for an article he was writing as part of his master's degree thesis program.

He filed suit after being prevented on several occasions from entering the hearings in which complaints are brought against drivers. The taxi court has been subject to an informal closed-door policy since 1994, and State Supreme Court Justice Stanley Parness said in his decision that there have been few, if any, other attempts to gain access to the hearings.

Parness did not accept the commission's argument that it has a legitimate interest in closing the meetings.

City officials say they have not decided whether to appeal the decision.

Fall 2000, reports