Radley Balko has a terrific article on Reason.com about an issue that has been mentioned a number of times on this blog: whether public servants such as the police have any right to privacy in the performance of their duties.
The question garnered a lot of public attention earlier this year after a motorcyclist, Anthony Graber, recorded being pulled over for a traffic stop and uploaded it to YouTube, but I’ve also covered other cases of that kind and the issues they raise.
Balko describes a case in an Illinois court that seems destined for follow-up. It’s a case where a judge claimed that a defendant who wanted a recording of the trial and who had been denied a court reporter, was told that not only couldn’t he record the proceedings himself, but that he broke a whole bunch of wiretapping laws. Balko writes:
Just after he walked through the courthouse door the next day, Allison says Crawford County Circuit Court Judge Kimbara Harrell asked him whether he had a tape recorder in his pocket. He said yes. Harrell then asked him if it was turned on. Allison said it was. Harrell then informed the defendant that he was in violation of the Illinois wiretapping law, which makes it a Class 1 felony to record someone without his consent. “You violated my right to privacy,” the judge said.
Allison responded that he had no idea it was illegal to record public officials during the course of their work, that there was no sign or notice barring tape recorders in the courtroom, and that he brought one only because his request for a court reporter had been denied. No matter: After Harrell found him guilty of violating the car ordinance, Allison, who had no prior criminal record, was hit with five counts of wiretapping, each punishable by four to 15 years in prison. Harrell threw him in jail, setting bail at $35,000.
The judge had a right to privacy in his official capacity in open court? Oh really? Read the Reason article, as it reviews a number of cases of the issue of privacy of public servants and various states’ laws.