Posts Tagged ‘chicago’

Judge Posner Worried By Mic-Wielding Bloggers

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Hon. Richard A. Posner (Photo: U. Chicago)

Illinois has an eavesdropping and wiretapping statute that prohibits making an audio recording of any conversation without the consent of all persons involved. This applies not only over the phone or in a private place, but even in a public place. And even when the conversation is with public officials concerning a matter of public concern. Violations can be prosecuted as felonies, and civil suits are authorized as well.

If you don’t think that sounds constitutional, I’m inclined to agree. And so is the ACLU, who is suing on behalf of several people arrested for secretly recording on-duty police officers. The civil liberties group is challenging the law in ACLU v. Alvarez.

On appeal to the federal Seventh Circuit, the ACLU faced questioning by a panel that included America’s most famous federal circuit judge, the Hon. Richard A. Posner. His questioning was alarming. Just 14 words into his argument, ACLU lawyer Richard O’Brien was interrupted with this:

“Yeah, I know … But I’m not interested, really, in what you want to do with these recordings of peoples’ encounters with the police.”

Huh? Really? Ferreting out public corruption, abuse of power, obstruction of justice by those charged to guard it – all that sounds interesting to me.

Posner proceeded to worry about how striking down the law could aid snooping bloggers:

“Once all this stuff can be recorded, there’s going to be a lot more of this snooping around by reporters and bloggers.”

“Is that a bad thing, your honor?”

“Yes, it is a bad thing. There is such a thing as privacy.”

Such a thing as privacy for on-duty police officers? Even when they are in public or interacting with civilians? Gosh, I can’t get behind that.

Justin Silverman at CMLP has an extremely thoughtful post on the matter. He writes, “Posner’s apparent belief that there should be an expectation of privacy for those in public areas discussing matters of public concern is alarming given that it is squarely at odds with the First Amendment. Worse, Posner’s comments smack of condescension for journalists.”

Jonathan Turley also is taken aback. He writes on his blog, “What astonishes me is that government officials are pushing this effort to block this basic right of citizens and perhaps the single most important form of evidence against police abuse. … As someone who admires Posner’s contributions to the law, it is disappointing to read such biased and dismissive comments in a free speech case. For police wondering ‘who will rid us of these meddling citizens?,’ they appear to have one jurist in Illinois not just ready but eager to step forward.”

Unfortunately, the facts of the case show that Turley’s comment is not the hyperbole you wish it were. The story told by one of the plaintiffs in the suit, Tiawanda Moore, is terrifying: She was groped in her home by a Chicago police officer who had responded to a domestic disturbance call. Moore was brave enough to take the issue to internal affairs. But they tried to deflect her complaint and sought to dissuade her from pursuing the matter. In the interests of protecting herself, she began to secretly record her conversations with investigators on her Blackberry.

When the recordings came to light, Moore was arrested and charged with violation of Illinois’s eavesdropping statute. Sadly, prosecutors took the case to trial. But in a strong affirmation of the role of civilian jurors, the jury acquitted her of the charge.

Just a few weeks ago, the First Circuit ruled that there is a constitutional right to record police actions in public places. Hopefully the Seventh Circuit will follow the lead and clear the way for snooping bloggers and sexually harassed citizens alike to be free to record the police in the City of Big Shoulders.

More:

Illinois Mayor: Bloggers are Terrorists, Creating History’s Greatest First Amendment Crisis

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Explosion on keypad of laptop computerJoseph Werner, mayor of Mokena, Illinois, has compared bloggers attacking local officials to terrorists who fly planes into buildings, killing innocent people. Further, Werner believes blogs have given rise to the greatest First Amendment crisis in this country’s history.

That’s according to Phil Kadner of Chicago Sun-Times’ suburban label SouthtownStar:

“They’re no different in my mind than the kind of person who takes an American plane with Americans on it and flies it into an American building and says I did it for a cause,” Werner said at a village board meeting, as quoted by Kadner in the SouthtownStar.

Given a chance to back off of those comments, Werner wouldn’t. He did clarify that he doesn’t have a problem with bloggers in general, just with those who hide their identities.

“They want to be anonymous. That’s cowardly,” Werner told Kadner. “Just like terrorists, they don’t care if they destroy innocent people, and maybe they’re not killing anyone, but they’re destroying reputations.”

Chicago Police Officer Under Investigation for Blog Post Criticizing Department

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Lt. Andrews riding (from Andrews' blog, photo by killboy.com)

Chicago police Lt. John Andrews is under investigation by Internal Affairs after he posted A City at War With Itself: Chicago – Fast Tracking To Anarchy … on his motorcycle-themed blog The Adventures of a Highway Road Runner.

In the post, Andrews talks about the CPD’s low morale and lack of staffing and leadership. He also criticizes the promotion of a police officer. This seems to be the particular passage that caused the most consternation:

A recent example of alleged political corruption ties to top tier leadership in the Chicago Police Department.

While Superintendent Jody Weis recently appointed Lieutenant Anthony Carothers to Commander of the Englewood District, his appointment has been received by the rank & file with utter disdain. They and some city residents call the appointment of Carothers a true lack of ethical consideration by the Superintendent.

Interestingly, the newly appointed Commander Anthony Carothers is the brother of Isaac Carothers, the Chicago Alderman recently convicted on charges of public corruption in Federal Court. Ironically, their father, William Carothers, also served as a Chicago Alderman until his conviction on public corruption charges in 1983.

The Chicago Tribune quotes Professor Sheldon Nahmod of Chicago-Kent College of Law as saying that there is “a serious First Amendment issue here,” and that the law should shield Andrews from discipline as long as he is writing as a public citizen out of public concern and not just airing a personal gripe.

Nahmod said that Andrews “was griping about the morale of the Police Department in general, the support it’s getting from its supervisors, superiors and from politicians, and that’s not the same thing as a personal gripe,” in the Trib’s quote.

More: Neil Steinberg column in the Chicago Sun-Times: Fed-up cop rips ‘hacks’ running department.

Company Assisting Adult-Content Industry Sues Chicago College Student Over Anonymous Blog Posts

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Remove Your Content, LLC is suing a Chicago resident over blog posts. Remove Your Content, according to its complaint, “was formed to help combat copyright infringement and piracy on the internet. Plaintiff provides various services to its clients, such as searching for illegally uploaded content, sending Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices, and working with websites to remove the stolen content.”

The specialty of Remove Your Content is working with adult entertainment industry clients who believe their content is being hosted on other persons’ websites. The complaint accuses the Chicago-area college student of being behind anonymously authored websites such as removeyourcontentsucks.blogspot.com, which criticizes Remove Your Content and its owner, including with regard to the use of takedown notices.

The student denies he is behind the blogs, and he claims in motion papers that evidence coming out of the Rule 26(a) disclosure proves that he is not the individual responsible for the critical blogs.

Remove Your Content’s allegations are, according to the student, based on information gathered through subpoenas sent to Google, AT&T, and a university.

In addition to questions on the merits, there is also a jurisdictional question. Remove Your Content filed the lawsuit in its home state of Texas. The defendant avers that he has never traveled to Texas prior to the lawsuit.

[This post was revised in a few minor substantive ways after June 3, 2010. My policy is to eliminate typo-type problems on an ex-post basis without notation; but where I change things around more than that, just for the sake of good record-keeping, I make a note. – EEJ]