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Court Rules There Is No First Amendment Right to Film Police

U.S. District Judge Mark Kearney of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has ruled that citizens don't have a First Amendment right to film police officers "absent a challenge to their conduct," The Legal Intelligencer's Gina Passarella reports. The issue is one of first impression and involves citizens whose cellphones were confiscated after they were filming or photographing police activity. One woman was a legal observer at a protest.

The judge said it has not been clear that documenting police activity--without challenging the activity of law enforcement officers--is expressive conduct.

Mary Catherine Roper of the ACLU of Pennsylvania told TLI that a police officer can't know what the intended use of an image truly is, whether it is to criticize the police or not.

However, the judge allowed the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claims to proceed.



The Business of Law Behind Police Brutality Cases

Fusion's Daniel Rivero has an interesting profile on the attorneys who are taking on police brutality cases. Not only do they find the work rewarding but they also are finding the case work lucrative, Rivero reports.

An attorney at the National Bar Association's annual conference said there's been $300 million in legal fees generated from police-misconduct cases in the last five years.

Chicago attorney Antonio Romanucci told Rivero that more lawyers are looking at police brutality cases because there are more civilian recordings of police interactions. But Dallas-area attorney Daryl Washington told Fusion that the cases are '"a more specialized field than just your normal personal injury law, because you’re dealing with violations to the constitution, and these cases tend to be in federal court.'"

Justice Department: When Cops Use Drones They Can't Violate Rights

The Justice Department has issued its first guidelines for the use of domestic drones by law enforcement, saying that the use of drones must not violate civil rights or the right to privacy, the Associated Press reports. The department said drones can't be used just to monitor protests and other activities protected by the constitution.

Supreme Court Finds Police Immune from Suit in Shooting of Mentally Ill Woman

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that police are immune from being sued over the shooting of a mentally ill woman in San Francisco, the Associated Press reports. While the shooting victim Teresa Sheehan said the police should have made reasonable accommodations for her under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the court said that it was not taking up that question because it hadn't been fully considered by the lower courts.

The court's decision is here:

Chicago Approves 'Reparations' for Victims of Police Torture

The Chicago City Council has voted to make $5.5 million in compensation available to at least 119 people tortured by police officers into giving false confessions, the Chicago Reporter's Adeshina Emmanuel reports. Police officers beat victims, burned them with cigarettes, handcuffed them to hot radiators, tied plastic bags over their heads and came close to suffocating victims, and electrocuted victims in their mouths and on their genitals. The measure "draws from the United Nations Convention against Torture and human rights practices around the world, especially in nations that overcame the legacy of violent, repressive regimes," Emmanuel reports.

Do the Lives of the Mentally Ill Matter to the Supreme Court?

The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up a police shooting case--and this time the victim wasn't a man of color, but a woman with mental illness who was shot to death in her own residence, Slate's Cristian Farias reports. Farias notes that one advocacy group estimates that at least half of all people shot to death by police have mental health issues. One issue in the case is "the extent to which the Americans With Disabilities Act serves as a check on police officers’ interactions with people with mental illnesses" when they are exhibiting erractic or violent behavior. Farias noted that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said during oral argument that '''isn’t the ADA ... intended to ensure that police officers try mitigation in these situations before they jump to violence?”'

Open Records Law Thwarted By ID Checks

The Rhode Island State Police has been asking people visiting its barracks to submit photo IDs, even though the state's open-records law says that people can request public records anonymously, the Providence Journal's Amanda Milkovits reports. The policy for checking visitor IDs is meant to protect police officers in light of law enforcement killings in Paris, New York City and outside a Pennsylvania State Police barracks. However, Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said "'requiring public record requestors to identify themselves violates the law. State agencies should not be able to unilaterally decide which parts of the law they are going to follow.'"

New York, Colorado and Maine Consider Drone Legislation

The New York legislature is considering bills to restrict the use of drones by law enforcement, the Tenth Amendment Center reports: "Introduced on Jan. 7, Senate Bill 411 (SB411) by Sen. Gordon Denlinger (R-Syosset) and Assembly Bill 1247 (A01247) would ban law enforcement from using a drone in a criminal investigation with a few exceptions, and would prohibit any 'person, entity, or state agency' from using a drone for surveillance anyplace a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy unless they meet specific requirements."

The Colorado Senate is also considering limits for drones, the Associated Press' Kristen Wyatt reports. The bill also would require law enforcement to have warrants before using drones.

Maine is considering a bill that would go even farther, the Tenth Amendment Center also reports. The bill would place a moratorium on all drone use until July 1, 2017, except for emergency situations. After that, law enforcement agencies would need a court order or a warrant to be able to use drones. The law also would create a private right of action for violations of the law.

The Bipartisan Push to Limit Lobbying of Attorneys General

The National Association of Attorneys Genearl has voted to stop accepting corporate sponsorships amid increasing scrutiny around the country of how attorneys general interact with lobbyists, The New York Times' Eric Lipton reports. Moreover, "in Missouri, a bill has been introduced that would require the attorney general, as well as certain other state officials, to disclose within 48 hours any political contribution worth more than $500. And in Washington State, legislation is being drafted to bar attorneys general who leave office from lobbying their former colleagues for a year. Perhaps most significant, a White House ethics lawyer in the administration of George W. Bush has asked the American Bar Association to change its national code of conduct to prohibit attorneys general from discussing continuing investigations or other official matters while participating in fund-raising events at resort destinations, as they often now do," Lipton also reports.

Attorneys General Increasingly Refusing to Enforce Laws

Elected state attorneys general are playing a new role: refusing to enforce their state's laws, "raising questions about where the line lies between discretion and derelicition of duty," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Tracie Mauriello reports. For example, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused to defend a new state law allowing the National Rifle Association to sue over local gun regulations and she refused to defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Mauriello cites examples in Indiana, New Jersey and Virginia where attorneys general did not enforce law regarding immigration, guns and failing schools. Professor John C. Harrison of the University of Virginia School of Law told Mauriello, “'It’s probably true that the judgments that executive enforcement officers make about constitutionality of statutes they’re called on to enforce are somewhat influenced by their policy views.”'


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