If you've ever tried to fight a ticket handed to you by a cop in the subway system, you'll be familiar with the "hearings" held by the NYC Transit Adjudication Bureau (TAB), during which you waste half your day in Brooklyn waiting to plead your case before a bored bureaucrat in a small room with a tape recorder. These typically anticlimactic hearings are closed to the public, unless the accused consents to an observer’s presence. Naturally, the NYCLU opposes these closed doors, because they "deprive the public of information about the fairness of the hearing process and accused transit riders of an understanding of the adjudication process."

In a ruling released today, Judge Richard J. Sullivan declared the TAB access policy unconstitutional and issued a preliminary injunction against its further enforcement. "This ruling unlocks the doors that hid from public view tens of thousands of hearings each year," said Christopher Dunn, NYCLU associate legal director and lead counsel in the case. "Moving forward, the NYCLU will monitor these hearings so we can make sure they are conducted fairly and so we track NYPD enforcement activity in the transit system."

According to data obtained by the NYCLU, the TAB levies guilty judgments in more than 83 percent of contested cases. Out of 23,202 summonses that transit riders challenged in 2006, the TAB upheld 19,424 of them. One of those subway offenders who beat the rap was pug owner Chrissie Brodigan, seen here, who ultimately saw her citations for carrying her sick dog through the subway dismissed.