from the i-hear-you dept
When it comes to insane bans on recording police and public officials, the granddaddy of them all has always been Illinois' eavesdropping law, which made it a federal crime to surreptitiously record any public official, even if they were amongst the public while performing their duties. The law was abused with such disregard for the Bill of Rights that court after court ruled the law unconstitutional. Those cases primarily dealt with the recording of law enforcement while performing their duties, something which ought to be a national right, given the ubiquity of cameras that are recording public citizens.
But now the Illinois Supreme Court has gone further, extending the overturning of the law such that it's no longer just law enforcement that is free to be recorded.
Today's decision(PDF) extends that analysis to other public officials as well as private citizens when they do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The justices note that the eavesdropping ban "criminalizes a wide range of innocent conduct," including "the recording of conversations that cannot be deemed private: a loud argument on the street, a political debate on a college quad, yelling fans at an athletic event, or any conversation loud enough that the speakers should expect to be heard by others. None of these examples implicate privacy interests, yet the statute makes it a felony to audio record each one. Judged in terms of the legislative purpose of protecting conversational privacy, the statute's scope is simply too broad."It's an immensely satisfying decision that turns the country's most draconian anti-recording law on its head. Illinois politics being what they are, there may be no place in the country that needs recordings of public officials more than this state I call home. Attempts to criminalize such recordings in a way that went so far beyond privacy concerns were clearly an attempt to keep the local population at bay while corruption and illegality raged on. More impressively, the court specifically weighed the public's free speech rights against any concerns by public officials and found for the common citizen.
Because the eavesdropping ban "burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to serve a legitimate state interest in protecting conversational privacy," the court concludes, "it does not survive intermediate scrutiny. We hold that the recording provision is unconstitutional on its face because a substantial number of its applications violate the first amendment."And so you can now record interactions with the folks whose salary you pay via taxes in the Land of Lincoln. Frankly, for a state known for corrupt public "servants", this has been a long time coming.