The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has struck down the onerous Illinois wiretapping law.
The ruling from the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago is the strongest blow yet to the law, which is one of the strictest in the country and makes it illegal for people to audio record police officers in public without their consent.
The ruling follows last month’s announcement by Chicago officials that they would not enforce the law during the May 20-21 NATO summit when potentially thousands of people armed with smart phones and video cameras are expected to demonstrate in the city.
The ruling from the appeals court stems from a lawsuit filed in 2010 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. The suit sought a preliminary injunction barring Cook County prosecutors from enforcing the law.
A federal judge denied the request, prompting the ACLU to appeal to the 7th Circuit. In its ruling today, the appeals court agreed with the ACLU, saying, “The Illinois eavesdropping statute restricts far more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests.”
The ACLU of Illinois welcomed the ruling. Its legal director, Harvey Grossman, said that the “widespread accessibility of new technologies make the recording and dissemination of pictures and sound inexpensive, efficient and easy to accomplish.”
“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,” Grossman said in a statement.
There was one dissent. And with it, I think it’s officially time to stop pretending that Judge Richard Posner has any kinship with libertarians.
Judge Richard Posner dissented, saying the legislature in 1994 might have had good reason for requiring two-party consent — a higher standard of privacy than other states — even when it comes to recording police officers on public streets: “A person who is talking with a police officer on duty may be a suspect whom the officer wants to question; he may be a bystander whom the police are shooing away from the scene of a crime or an accident; he may be an injured person seeking help; he may be a crime victim seeking police intervention; he may be asking for directions; he may be arguing with a police officer over a parking ticket; he may be reporting a traffic accident,” Posner wrote. “Police may have no right to privacy in carrying out official duties in public. But the civilians they interact with do.”
Or it might be the alleged victim of sexual assault by a police officer, attempting to document the fact that the internal affairs cops to whom she’s trying to report the incident are bullying her into dropping her complaint. Posner apparently thinks she should go to prison for that.
Keep in mind, this is the same Posner who is unconcerned with warrantless cell phone searches, and who in just about every other context seems to believe that privacy is dead.
Just not when you’re recording on-duty cops.