First Amendment Win: Supreme Court Rejects Attempt to Block Recording of Police Officers
ACLU of Illinois: "... individuals and organizations must be able to freely gather and record information about the conduct of government and their agents – especially the police."
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from Illinois that allows the enforcement of a law that blocks recording of police officers on duty.
In rejecting the plea from the Cook County state's attorney to review a May 2012 decision, the Court leaves in place "a federal appeals court’s injunction against the law, which prohibits audio recording of any part or all of a conversation unless all parties agree to the recording," Josh Gerstein reports.
The Chicago Tribune explains that
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in 2010 against Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez to block prosecution of ACLU staff for recording police officers performing their duties in public places, one of the group's long-standing monitoring missions.
Opponents of the law say the right to record police is vital to guard against abuses.
Last May, a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that the law “likely violates” the First Amendment and ordered that authorities be banned from enforcing it.
Harvey Grossman, Legal Director of the ACLU of Illinois, stated in response to the Court's decision:
We are pleased that the Supreme Court has refused to take this appeal. Now, we can focus on the on-going proceedings in the federal district court. We now hope to obtain a permanent injunction in this case, so that the ACLU’s program of monitoring police activity in public can move forward in the future without any threat of prosecution. The ACLU of Illinois continues to believe that in order to make the rights of free expression and petition effective, individuals and organizations must be able to freely gather and record information about the conduct of government and their agents – especially the police. The advent and widespread accessibility of new technologies make the recording and dissemination of pictures and sound inexpensive, efficient and easy to accomplish.
While a final ruling in this case will only address the work of the ACLU of Illinois to monitor police activity, we believe that it will have a ripple effect throughout the entire state. We are hopeful that we are moving closer to a day when no one in Illinois will risk prosecution when they audio record public officials performing their duties. Empowering individuals and organizations in this fashion will ensure additional transparency and oversight of public officials across the State.