Illinois free-speech advocates have welcomed a U.S. Supreme Court decision that delivers another blow to one of the country's most stringent anti-eavesdropping laws, with connections to a local case.
The high court Monday rejected an Illinois prosecutor's plea and let stand a key lower-court ruling.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May that Illinois' law violates free-speech rights when used against people who tape police in public. Violators face a maximum 15-year prison term.
The law's opponents say the right to record police helps guard against police abuses.
An American Civil Liberties Union's lawyer, Harvey Grossman, says Monday's decision kicks the case back to a U.S. District Court. A federal judge could now make a temporary injunction against the law permanent.
There are already moves afoot by state legislators to change the law, but State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a vocal opponent of the law, said court decisions hitting at its constitutionality could effectively nullify the most contentious aspects of the law and make further legislative action unnecessary.
"If it's unenforceable, it's unenforceable," the Northbrook Democrat said. "I think (the law's opponents) would be pretty happy with that" and wouldn't feel the need to formally strike it from the books.
In May, about the same time as the lower court decision, the Illinois Attorney General's Office dropped an appeal in the Illinois Supreme Court against Michael Allison. Allison was a local man who faced felony charges and prison time for recording law enforcement in public.
The Washington, D.C.-based high court didn't hear arguments or issue an opinion, but its decision to do nothing amounts to a rejection of a plea from Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez to overturn the decision by the 7th Circuit in Chicago.
In their 33-page petition to the Supreme Court, prosecutors argued the 7th Circuit had ignored privacy rights and created "a novel and unprecedented First Amendment protection to ubiquitous recording devices."
"The decision (of the 7th Circuit) diminished the conversational privacy of speakers in favor of a heretofore unrecognized First Amendment right to audio record the discussions of such speakers," the petition said.
Especially in an era where recording devices can pick up conversations from far away, a lack of restraints could make civilians uneasy and make them reluctant to speak frankly to officers about criminal activity - endangering the public, the petition argued.
What the prosecutor's office sought most was "legal clarification and guidance," a spokeswoman for Alvarez, Sally Daly, said. She said it was disappointing the high court didn't agree to hear the case.
It stems from a 2010 lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union seeking to block Alvarez from prosecuting ACLU staff for recording police officers performing duties in public - one of the group's long-standing monitoring missions.
The ACLU of Illinois on Monday welcomed the high court's decision not to touch the lower court's ruling.
"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," Harvey Grossman, legal director of the ACLU of Illinois, said in a statement. "Empowering individuals and organizations in this fashion will ensure additional transparency and oversight of public officials across the state."
The case now gets kicked back to a U.S. District Court in Chicago, where the ACLU will ask a federal judge to make a temporary injunction against the law permanent. If a judge agrees, that could amount to a final death knell for the law as it's currently written.
Posted: Saturday, January 11, 2014
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I would like to comment about this very important article, but after seeing and herring all the risks, involved Im actually afraid to face the consequences of jail or prison. But If I Don't Then What Will That Mean. I must exercise my rights Our Rights And say: The Blood Shed For Our Freedom Our Reporting free speech and photography our Rights To protect Ourselves. Will all be in vain men and woman Would have then died for nothing. The Government Is Exposed for so much corruption, and our Police dept the officers themselves are running a power trip and are hurting us not protecting us. I am feeling that this is a very significant time in our lives and history, that we must all as people as citizens rich or poor. Stand united stand strong together. Without any thought of Religion without any thought of political democracy, We must fight together to keep our amendment constitutional rights all of them fight that recording , or photos any ware any time.Q-Has our gov. turned against us ? Q-are our we being disarmed of our rights to be safe to keep our families safe our children and our childrens, children safe? Why Are We Being treated like We Are Not American Citizens Living In AMERICA? ARE WE THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, GOING TO BE FORCED TO TAKE DOWN OUR OWN GOV? 1 ANSWER TO THAT, YES, ONLY IF OUR GOV. MAKES ANOTHER MOVE TWORDS DEMINISION OR COMPLETELY SEVORINGANY OF OUR BLOOD EARNED FOUGHT FOR AND KILLED FOR RIGHTS. THEE OBVIOUS ANSWER IS YES! IF WE DO NOTHING ABOUT THESE NEW LAWS THAT PROTECT INVISABLE CORRUPTED POWER. I SEE ONLY. PRISON CAMPS FOR US. BECAUSE THE JAILS AND THE PRIVITLY OWNED PRISONS WILL BECOME SO OVERLOADED WITH CONVICTED KILLERS AND MOLESTORS AND RAPIST.THEN WE WILL SEE FOLKS THAT USED A CAMERA OR PHONE OR VIDIO TAPE, FILLING UP CELLS AND CELL BLOCKS. 75 YEARS FOR ONE MAN IN ILLINOISE!? WHEN WILL WE WAKWE UP OPEN OUR EYES TO FEMA? WHAT IS IT REALY FOR? MAYBE OUR FUTURE FOR NOT COMPLYING WITH RIDICULAS LAWS, FOR NOT DOING AS WE ARE TOLD BY A COP, REFERING THAT LAST COMMENT ABOUT NOT COMPLING WITH A COP IF WE ARE WITH IN OUR RIGHTS AND PROVIDING WE ARE NOT BREAKING THE LAWS OR HURTING OR STEALING OR ANYOTHER ORDINARY LAW BREAKING RULES WILL ALL KNOW ABOUT, IM TALKING ABOUT THE INOCENT THE NORMAL EVERY DAY AMERICAN CITIZEN? WILL WE BE IN FEMA CAMPS WILL WE BE RUNNED BY MARSHAL LAW? YES! IF WE DONT STAND TOGETHER STRONGLY AND FIRMLY.DONT LET GOV. TAKE OUR AMMENMENTS AWAY> OR OUR FUTURE IS NOT A FUTURE WE WANT TO SEE. LIVE FREE OR DIE TRYING. .