IL Court: Eavesdropping Law Violates First Amendment When Used Against People Recording The Police
from the hold-on,-is-this-thing-on? dept
We were just discussing the ruling of a 7th circuit federal judge, Richard Posner, about a controversial Illinois eavesdropping case, in which His Honor seemed to fear that allowing people to record interactions with police would…lead to people recording interactions with police. Or something.
“If you permit the audio recordings, they’ll be a lot more eavesdropping.…There’s going to be a lot of this snooping around by reporters and bloggers,” U.S. 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner said. “Yes, it’s a bad thing. There is such a thing as privacy.”
To me, that sounds an awful lot like saying you can’t increase the speed limit on a street to 65 MPH, because then more people will go 65 MPH. That’s kind of the point.
In any case, reader Mark informs us that an Illinois State Court has gone the other way, in the Michael Allison case we wrote about a couple weeks ago, ruling that the law cannot apply to interactions with police and court officials as it violates the 1st Amendment. In the Posner article, plenty of commentors (myself included), drew a line between private interactions between citizens and interactions with public officials, arguing that while administering to a public duty, officials ought not be able to hide behind the veil of privacy. Circuit Court Judge David Frankland outlined a similar, if more eloquent, assertion in his opinion:
“’A statute intended to prevent unwarranted intrusions into a citizen’s privacy cannot be used as a shield for public officials who cannot assert a comparable right of privacy in their public duties,’ the judge wrote in his decision dismissing the five counts of eavesdropping charges against defendant Michael Allison.”
I admit I struggle to see how anyone can disagree. When you’re carrying out your public duty, your employer (the public) has a right to document what kind of job you’re doing. While, as was Judge Frankland’s opinion, we can make some exceptions for the sake of avoiding distractions (Allison actually tried to record in-court proceedings, a no-no), trying to make any of this a felony is downright silly.
The public is the public servant’s employer, afterall. And that includes the Justice System as well. It’s nice to hear from a judge who hasn’t seemed to have forgotten that.