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View Diary: Yes Virginia, you can film police officers & Repubs at TownHalls (117 comments)

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  •  Some have gotten wrong idea: (21+ / 0-)

    The court case that was decided Friday was not about the Chabot incident. The website is just extrapolating the findings....to the Chabot incident. The actual court case was about a man who had filmed the police and was arrested with camera confiscated. The finding applies to the Chabot incident and to many, many others where recording devices were either barred from public meetings or were actually confiscated. I seem to recall one GOPer congressman who tried to claim his town hall meeting was a private meeting for his constituents, so cameras should not be allowed. Kinda iffy.

    This whole world's wild at heart and weird on top....Lula

    by anninla on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 04:00:29 PM PDT

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    •  Even within that rational (9+ / 0-)

      I would think that any person who lived in that congress person's district would then be able to record the proceedings, whether they voted for the congressperson or not.

      I disagree with the "private meeting for my constituents" argument anyway. Any elected official may vote on things that affect people outside their district, and therefor (in my completely non-legal opinion) anything they do in public is just, that, "public".

      "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." - Tom Robbins - Political Compass sez: -8.25, -7.90

      by ARS on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 05:29:19 PM PDT

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      •  If it's a 'political' function they can restrict (6+ / 0-)

        who comes and probably who can film.

        But that makes it 'political' not governmental.

        If the campaign rented the hall vs the Congressional office, that would be clue.

        Someone in a very expensive suit is at the front door and says he wants to foreclose on our democracy. Where should I tell him he can put his robosigning pen?

        by Into The Woods on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 06:56:35 PM PDT

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        •  Does the court make such a distinction? (0+ / 0-)

          I would think that even campaign events would be considered "Public" events no matter how it is paid for.

          For example, the rotary club event of Paul Ryan's where people had to pay $15 to get in. I'm still attempting to figure out what law was broken that allowed the protesters to be kicked out. As far as I'm concerned being rude is not against the law.

          Obviously there are some restrictions on what you can say "Can't yell fire in a theater" and all that, but does challenging and questioning a congressperson or other elected official meet that threshold?

          In regards to filming police officers the ACLU is doing all the heavy lifting on this issue and everyone should join that organization if you want to defend our rights on this issue.

          You can fight for democracy at home And not in some foreign land - Billy Bragg

          by Democrat on Wed Sep 07, 2011 at 07:45:16 AM PDT

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    •  Can Police in a Town Hall Lose Qualified Immunity (17+ / 0-)

      if they arrest someone who refuses to stop videorecording the Town Hall meeting?

      It seems very possible, especially if the media cameras are allowed to continue filming.

      While the  case discussed in the diary does relate to a different factual circumstance (person arrested for filming police during an arrest of a 3rd person) it is not an appeal of the criminal case (that was eventually dismissed.)

      It is an appeals court decision upholding a lower federal court decision that the public officials being filmed in the conduct of their duties in a public place can lose their qualified immunity against prosecution under Federal laws protecting against the violation of a person's civil rights (42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of Glik's First and Fourth Amendment rights).

      As the Court described it:

      Long-standing principles of constitutional litigation entitle public officials to qualified immunity from personal liability arising out of actions taken in the exercise of discretionary functions.

      The standard for losing that qualified immunity and opening themselves up to suit under the '1983' claims, can be summarized as

      1.  Whether the facts make out a violation of a Constitutional right.

      2.  Whether that right was 'clearly established' at the time of the defendant's alleged violation,"

      It is this second point that makes it so vital that people go into these events prepared with both knowledge and documents making that right clear (or even sending them before hand to the Congressional offices of the officeholder whose Town Hall is coming up.)

      Why?

      Because whether a public officials loses their qualified immunity depends on what "clearly established" means:

      The latter analysis of whether a right was "clearly established" further divides into two parts: "(1) 'the clarity of the law at the time of the alleged civil rights violation,' and (2) whether, given the facts of the particular case, 'a reasonable defendant would have understood that his conduct violated the plaintiff['s] constitutional rights. ...

      The Court went on to say that such a finding

      does "not require a case directly on point, but existing precedent must have placed the . . . constitutional question beyond debate."

      In other words, did the "state of the law" give the public official "fair warning" that their conduct was unconstitutional.

      The Court in that case found that it was:

      Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting "the free discussion of governmental affairs." ...  Moreover, as the Court has noted, "[f]reedom of expression has particular significance with respect to government because '[i]t is here that the state has a special incentive to repress opposition and often wields a more effective power of suppression.'" ...    As the Supreme Court has observed, "the First Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw." ...

      An important corollary to this interest in protecting the stock of public information is that "[t]here is an undoubted right to gather news 'from any source by means within the law.'" ...

      Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting "the free discussion of governmental affairs." ...   Moreover, as the Court has noted, "[f]reedom of expression has particular significance with respect to government because '[i]t is here that the state has a special incentive to repress opposition and often wields a more effective power of suppression.

      Ensuring the public's right to gather information about their officials not only aids in the uncovering of abuses, see id. at 1034-35 (recognizing a core First Amendment interest in "the dissemination of information relating to alleged governmental misconduct"), but also may have a salutary effect on the functioning of government more generally, see Press-Enter. Co. v. Superior Court, 478 U.S. 1, 8 (1986) (noting that "many governmental processes operate best under public scrutiny").

      ...

      In line with these principles, we have previously recognized that the videotaping of public officials is an exercise of First Amendment liberties. In Iacobucci v. Boulter, 193 F.3d 14 (1st Cir. 1999), a local journalist brought a § 1983 claim arising from his arrest in the course of filming officials in the hallway outside a public meeting of a historic district commission. The commissioners had objected to the plaintiff's filming. Id. at 18. When the plaintiff refused to desist, a police officer on the scene arrested him for disorderly conduct.

      ...

      Although the plaintiff's subsequent § 1983 suit against the arresting police officer was grounded largely in theFourth Amendment and did not include a First Amendment claim, we explicitly noted, in rejecting the officer's appeal from a denial of qualified immunity, that because the plaintiff's journalistic activities "were peaceful, not performed in derogation of any law, and done in the exercise of his First Amendment rights, [the officer] lacked the authority to stop them." Id. at 25 (emphasis added).

      Our recognition that the First Amendment protects the filming of government officials in public spaces accords with the decisions of numerous circuit and district courts.

      ...

      It is of no significance that the present case, unlike Iacobucci and many of those cited above, involves a private individual, and not a reporter, gathering information about public officials. The First Amendment right to gather news is, as the Court has often noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media; rather, the public's right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press.

      ...

      In summary, though not unqualified, a citizen's right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.

      http://www.ca1.uscourts.gov/...
      Copying pages 11,12,&13/24 provides many sitations to cases on which this Court relies.
      http://www.ca1.uscourts.gov/...

      The GOP is fond of reminded us that "elections have consequences".

      Well so do Constitutions.  

      And if they're just plain scared of the public, maybe it's because they set that tiger lose thinking that they could ride it in the Summer of 2009 when they organized the radical fringe to disrupt and intimidate members of Congress in their efforts to kill health care reform.

      Someone in a very expensive suit is at the front door and says he wants to foreclose on our democracy. Where should I tell him he can put his robosigning pen?

      by Into The Woods on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 06:23:09 PM PDT

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      •  Wow....that really explains things (13+ / 0-)

        "It is of no significance that the present case, unlike Iacobucci and many of those cited above, involves a private individual, and not a reporter, gathering information about public officials. The First Amendment right to gather news is, as the Court has often noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media; rather, the public's right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press."

        ...

        "In summary, though not unqualified, a citizen's right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment."
        ---------------------------------

        Can you explain more about the phrase, "though not unqualified?" What would "qualify/limit" a citizen's right to film?

        This whole world's wild at heart and weird on top....Lula

        by anninla on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 07:29:20 PM PDT

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        •  Reasonable limitations on time, place & manner (0+ / 0-)

          are limitations that come to mind (I'm sure there are others as well.)

          For instance, my First Amendment right to 'gather news' does not give me the authority to interfere with an arrest.  I probably can't go banging on a Congressman's door at his home at 3 in the morning to ask questions (time and place issues because it's probably not a reasonable time and its not a public place.)  But even with that example, there might be (rare) exceptions.

          Another, more related issue might come up if I am both reporting on and initiating action by which I am becoming the news - if I am recording the proceedings while I am also becoming part of the action.

          But even then, if my actions (lets say doing a sit-in directly in front of the Congressperson) are disruptive and violating the reasonable rules necessary to conduct these kind of events, it is that conduct, not my videotaping, that is the issue.  

          Someone in a very expensive suit is at the front door and says he wants to foreclose on our democracy. Where should I tell him he can put his robosigning pen?

          by Into The Woods on Tue Aug 30, 2011 at 12:25:19 PM PDT

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      •  Thank you for such a complete explanation. (4+ / 0-)

        That was great.

        JB

        I am here to represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party. Roar louder!

        by Josiah Bartlett on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 08:20:11 PM PDT

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