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Right to record Police activities in public advances in U.S. District Ct. Win

Accepted submission by RandomFactor at 2018-12-16 15:07:19 from the big cheeky bugger. Hey! It's got a camera! dept.
Digital Liberty

The Boston Globe has a story [bostonglobe.com] out about a ruling in US District court this week that narrows the scope of a 50-year old Massachusetts law that restricted recording of police and other government officials.

The law, and similar ones still in effect in 10 other states, was implemented long before the advent of now ubiquitous cell phones. It and similar laws criminalized recordings made of police and public officials in public even in performance of their duties, as felonies and have caught large numbers of individuals, activists, and journalists doing the same thing they always do in their net. (Most states are covered already by rulings which find such recording legal on first amendment grounds.)

But a ruling issued Monday by US District Court Judge Patti Saris found, “On the core constitutional issue, the Court holds that secret audio recording of government officials, including law enforcement officials, performing their duties in public is protected by the First Amendment, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions.” And so, she added, the law “is unconstitutional in those circumstances.”

The attorney general's office is reviewing the decision so challenge or appeal may still be forthcoming. However, as the Globe notes

this is one law whose time has come and gone. Challenges to the law go back to at least 2001, when a spirited dissent in a case then before the Supreme Judicial Court insisted that the “legislative intent” was to regulate government surveillance, not that of private citizens trying to monitor police conduct in a public place.

This case was clearly a win for greater transparency — and that’s all to the good. It should be allowed to stand.

More information on recording public officials is available here [dmlp.org] and here [youtube.com].

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Maybe now we can, just a little bit more, in Massachusetts.

Good one Skippy.


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