Northern District of Illinois Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman granted a permanent injunction on enforcement of the portion of the Illinois Eavesdropping Act that makes it illegal for a citizen to make an audio recording of law enforcement officials performing their public duties in public places. The case is ACLU v. Alvarez. Read more here.
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The Seventh Circuit struck down a portion of the City of Chicago’s municipal disorderly conduct statute today. Specifically, the Court found that Subsection D of the law, which criminalizes an individual’s behavior when he “knowingly . . . fails to obey a lawful order of dispersal by a person known by him to be a peace officer under circumstances where three or more persons are committing acts of disorderly conduct in the immediate vicinity, which acts are likely to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, annoyance or alarm” was unconstitutional.
The court found that this Subsection was unconstitutionally overbroad under the First Amendment and unconstitutionally vague under the 14th Amendment. Judge Flaum wrote for a unanimous panel: “Subsection D may still implicate protected expression because, once triggered, it may be applied to disperse people engaged in peaceful speech or expressive conduct, including on topics of public concern. … Accordingly, to the extent that Subsection D authorizes dispersal when an assembly creates or is threatened by “substantial harm,” it does not improperly infringe upon protected speech. We cannot say the same, however, for authorizing dispersal on the basis of “serious inconvenience, annoyance or alarm.””
The full text of the opinion is available here.
The Illinois House of Representatives voted down a bill on March 21 that would have amended the state’s eavesdropping law to permit citizens to make audio recordings of police officers doing their jobs in public places. Illinois’ strange eavesdropping law, which I’ve written about in the past, has been used by police in several high-profile incidents to charge civilians with felonies when they tried to record police misconduct.
Rep. Elaine Nekritz introduced a bill to amend the statute. Her bill, H.B. 3944, would have brought Illinois in line with other states, which, by and large, permit audio and video recording with the consent of one party to the conversation. Moreover, the bill reflected the reality that police officers really shouldn’t have an expectation of privacy when they perform public duties in public places. But, disappointingly, opponents of the bill shot it down in a 59-45 vote.
Meanwhile, on March 2, Cook County Judge Stanley Sacks found the eavesdropping law unconstitutional in the case of the artist Christopher Drew who was charged with a felony under the law for having a friend videotape his arrest. Judge Sacks noted: “The Illinois Eavesdropping Statute potentially punishes as a felony a wide array of wholly innocent conduct. A parent making an audio recording of their child’s soccer game, but in doing so happens to record nearby conversations, would be in violation of the Eavesdropping Statute.”
Norridge resident Riccardo Mora sued the Village of Norridge today, seeking to overturn a village ordinance that prohibits residents from displaying any signs that support a political candidate or advocate a position on a political issue anywhere on the public right of way. Violators are subject to fines of up to $750.00 and/or community service. According to the complaint, Mora was ticketed for violating the ordinance on March 16, 2011, because his car, which was parked near 7900 West Montrose, had a bunch of political bumper stickers on it. The ticket was later dismissed when Mora appeared at a court hearing. The complaint asks for an injunction preventing Norridge from enforcing the ordinance and a finding that the ordinance is an unconstitutional ban on political speech that violates residents’ First Amendment rights. The case is Mora v. Norridge, 11 C 4308. The case is pending before Judge Aspen in the Northern District of Illinois.