Contradicting the rulings of six other federal courts, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals annihilated free speech rights in upholding a district court decision stating citizens do not have the right to film public officials — politicians, police, and others — in public.
In affirming the decision of the lower court to dismiss, the Eighth Circuit effectively ended free speech activist Matthew Akins’ challenge to the Columbia, Missouri, Police Department, which he accuses of unlawfully stopping and arresting him on multiple occasions — though nearly all charges were later dropped — as he filmed their encounters with the public, in public.
As a journalist and founder of Citizens for Justice in 2011, a group committed to monitoring police for accountability purposes, Akins frequently stopped to record officers’ interactions with the general public — a tactic employed by a plethora of civilian impartial observation groups to stem an epidemic of police violence and veritable impunity in courts, so common to law enforcement officers who misbehave.
Judge Nanette Laughrey penned in the stunning decision Columbia Police officers indeed had probable cause to arrest Akins each time, and — again, contrary to previous rulings from six circuit courts —that “he has no constitutional right to videotape any public proceeding he wishes to.”
Attorney Stephen Wyse already filed an appeal on Wednesday for the court to rehear the case — originally filed against Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight, two former Boone County assistant prosecuting attorneys, and several members of the Columbia Police Department — as he contended unequivocally, prior,
“You can’t target journalists because you don’t like their reporting.”
ABC affiliate KMIZ reports,
“Wyse took issue with Laughrey’s decision to stay on the case, despite his request she recuse herself. Laughrey’s husband, Chris Kelly, was the head of a city task force on infrastructure, which could have skewed her decisions in a case against the city, Wyse claimed. While federal law does call for a judge’s recusal, the appeals court said nothing in Akins’ case rose to the level of bias or prejudice against his case.”
In fact, Judge Thomas Ambro wrote the decision for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in a similar casecomprised of separate instances in which Philadelphia law enforcement actively thwarted the efforts of two citizens, Amanda Geraci and Richard Fields, to film arrests. Both sued for violations of their civil rights, and — like many other litigants — won.
“The First Amendment protects the public’s right of access to information about their officials’ public activities,” Ambro clarified, adding that access “is particularly important because it leads to citizen discourse” on public and private issues — an exalted exercise of that preeminent protection. The government, ruled the judge, is prohibited constitutionally from “limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw.”
American law enforcement, on the whole, has not responded hat graciously to civilians whipping out cell phones and video cameras to record encounters in public — though filming police can indeed provide additional pictorial and audio evidence in the event of contention or disputation.
“Bystander videos provide different perspectives than police and dashboard cameras, portraying circumstances and surroundings that police videos often do not capture,” Ambro continued. “Civilian video also fills the gaps created when police choose not to record video or withhold their footage from the public.”
Laughrey, however, broke ranks in a manner which could portend a precarious existence of certain First Amendment rights — rights which had previously been assumed by the public and averred in peer courts. States comprising the Eighth Circuit are Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota.
“The First Amendment is a core American value,” Wyse asserted in a press statement following the decision’s astonishing departure from precedent. “The right to free speech and a free press are central to our liberty and our ability to hold our government accountable. This holding of the 8th Circuit undermines the basic rights of Missourians and the citizens of the six other 8th Circuit states and undermines the First Amendment rights for all Americans.”
In the meantime, irascible law enforcement officers keen to prevent civilians from filming their activities would do well to remember two crucial points: recording public officials keeps them responsible and accountable for their actions — but can also protect them in situations of disputing claims. After all, raw video recordings — not police, officials, or citizens — have no need of mendacity and duplicity.
“We ask much of our police,” Ambro wrote in the July decision. “They can be our shelter from the storm. Yet officers are public officials carrying out public functions, and the First Amendment requires them to bear bystanders recording their actions. This is vital to promote the access that fosters free discussion of governmental actions, especially when that discussion benefits not only citizens but the officers themselves.”
Laughrey, unfortunately, did not agree — and now the public has yet another constitutionally-protected right left dangling by a fraying thread.
Karma when the US Supreme Court is able to find the ACA Constitutional anything is possible. Our Courts are completely corrupted... they need a complete overhaul.
How Ron can it be done?
You asked how do we restrain our federal courts and justices.... Here is how:
Congress has the Constitutional power to ordain and establish all inferior Federal Courts... as they see fit. The Constitution (Article 3, Section 1, Clause 1) gives Congress the power create all inferior federal courts. Congress also has the power to abolish all federal courts if they so desire and too reboot the system... by establishing a NEW FEDERAL SYSTEM of inferior courts... In effect, Congress may FIRE every sitting justice by passing a NEW FEDERAL JUDICIARY ACT that redistricts the current system, ordaining new courts with the jurisdiction to hear all federal cases..
Note; The current Federal Judiciary Act was created in 1789... it's time to replace it.
The Federal Judiciary Act can be used to abolish or realign the existing system ... It can ordain new courts, with new JURISDICTION to hear cases. The Congress can restrain the Federal Courts, limiting the types of cases they may hear. Congress must REMOVE the Inferior Courts (Districts and Appellate) from hearing cases involving sovereign States. See: Article 3, Section 2, Clause 2, which clearly states... "In ALL CASES affecting.... a State... the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction..." In other words, no inferior federal court may hear a case that involves a sovereign State of the Union. This provision of the US Constitution must be enforced.
Congress may place limits on the jurisdiction of federal courts by legislation/law... restricting inferior federal courts as to the cases they may hear. This may be done in the Federal Judiciary Act. Example: the jurisdiction of Administrative judges, Tax Courts, and other Federal Courts, can be realigned, to fit within the original intent of our framers. However, Congress presently doesn't want to do this, as they USE the courts to legislate, by judicial fiat, items the people would otherwise fire the members of Congress for advancing. Congress wants the courts to act where it is political suicide for them to act.
The Point is that Congress under Article 3, Section 1, Clause 1... may ordain or abolish the inferior federal Courts as it wills. The inferior Federal Courts were meant to be the servants of Congress and the States, not the other way around. An un-elected Judge, of an inferior federal court, was never intended to have jurisdiction over a sovereign STATE of the Union.
It is time to reaffirm and restrain the jurisdiction of the inferior federal courts... There is no better or EASIER method to do that, than to remove, abolish, all of the current courts by redistricting them out of business, and then Congress and the President may reappoint or appoint, new judges, they deem appropriately restrained, to the NEW FEDERAL COURTS.
Thanks Ron for the info. It sounds like the demorats are still in control.
Our public officials are taking on the trappings of a new age Aristocracy... impugning our heritage and their roll as servants of the people. We must reverse this or become a totalitarian state.
While in the Navy I took an oath to defend the Constitutional of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. I believe that you Ron took the same oath at one time.
What do you think that I was trained for while in the navy??
I took the same Oath and I have not abandoned it... However I am not suicidal. We must organize and we need leadership with the resources capable of supporting a major, major, move to reform government. Pres. Trump may just have both... but it will certainly take his resolve too pledge his LIFE, LIBERTY and TREASURE (money) to this cause.
Until we have the leadership and resources to act... it would be foolish for us to rise up ... independently. I believe Ben Franklin once said: "We must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately." That maxim applies today. We must first organize, we must hang together, or we will certainly hang as individuals.
Know this... Any movement to restore Constitutional government may well be labeled treason or sedition by the sitting government... no matter how despotic that government may be... it is cloaked with the power of the Constitution and our laws.
It is now up to men like Pres. Trump to organize us ... too call on the People to DRAIN THE SWAMP in DC. If he and his kind will not act... the common man is lost... as he has no champion to rally and support him. I am more than willing to do my part should the President call on me... but as an individual I don't have the resources to organize and support such an effort ALONE.