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.
That is true Ron, I believe that the communist liberals hope that we will act with emotion to what they are doing to us. Instead of using our intelligence to return the country to like our forefathers intended it to be. I also know that I have to watch what I say on here, because it seems to find it's way to the open internet.
America must find the resolve to ORGANIZE its people to resist the overt subversion of its heritage and Constitution... When such legal decisions become routine it is time to actively resist such tyranny.
We must look for LEADERS with the RESOURCES to effectively organize the people on a National level... the President could do just that if he would. He obviously understands that he doesn't have the support of the Political Establishment in either political party and must understand that his power rests with the people and his ability to mobilize them... to put boots in the main streets across America... demanding a 'Recall and Term Limits Amendment' to the Constitution.
America must RECALL every elected and appointed federal official... including all federal judges, subject to new elections and appointments. The Several States must call an Article V Convention as there is no longer any hope that Congress will act to reform the government. The Convention must Amend the Constitution by passing a Term Limits and Recall Amendment... Recalling all sitting elected and appointed officials and establishing Term Limits on all future elected and appointed officials: ONE TERM of 6 yrs., with 1/3rd standing for election and appointment every 2 yrs. We will not see any of the existing public officials espousing such reforms. They will not give up their power willingly, it must be taken from them by one of two means: 1) An Article V Convention of States and the passage of a RECALL and TERM LIMITS AMENDMENT... or 2) by force of arms and a civil war... The first action being the preferred and most efficient means.
Any expectation that the current political process will return Constitutional government is foolishness... the system is RIGGED as Pres. Trump so aptly put it. The People no longer have a franchise on the electoral process... they are being lied to and defrauded by their political leaders. There is not one righteous, no not one, professional politician worthy or our TRUST.
Pres. Trump is not a professional politician... He holds the keys to our liberty. If he will organize the people and call on them DIRECTLY to remove Congress, and those who have usurped the people's power,he may well drain the swamp. In fact, he may also need to call on them to remove several of the States Executives and Legislatures... who have ignored the people and will not heed their calls for Constitutional reform.
Trump needs to create a new political wing (caucuses) within the GOP and Democrat Party... a Patriot wing/caucus that calls on all Americans to resist the Establishment... too, return America to its Constitutional roots. Both political parties have betrayed America and are not worthy of the People's support.
It will be necessary to work peacefully... within both political parties, recognizing the reality that exist, if we are to peacefully return the Government to the People... that our Government may be of the people, for the people and by the people. Pres. Trump can do this by organizing and co-opting the existing political structure... overturning its corrupt leadership, thru the use of peaceful demonstrations, and organizing massive challenges to its corrupt leadership... at the polls... in the primaries and general elections.
Trump has the bully pulpit of the Presidency... to expose the sins of both political parties and the DC swamp for what they really are... subversive and treasonous groups, composed of special interests, who seek to use the government, in order to enslave America, too put America under the heal of a New World Order.. A fascist and socialist government ...run by a few... an oligarchy of the rich and powerful.
However, if we fail to find a LEADER willing and capable... with the resource, to organize the people... any efforts to reform are over... before they get started.
YES, you are exactly right. The Conservative Caucus is already there, if Trump would support them, and ask Congress to come over to the Constitution, it would be a great beginning back from the precipice of hell that is this country.
'Recall and Term Limits Amendment' to the Constitution. Good point.
I THINK THIS IS GOING TO BE PUT DOWN !! THIS JUDGE RULING WILL NEVER HOLD !! IT IS AGAINST OUR RIGHTS IN THE USA !! THERE WAS PRO LAWS THEY SAY OTHER WISE AND YOU CAN'T CHANGE THEM WITHOUT CHANGING CONSTITUTION !!
Why isn't this liberal brain dead judge removed from office by President Trump.
I have stood up to a lot of liberals and when they can't bully you they run.
Trump can not remove a Judge... they must be IMPEACHED by Congress. It is Congress that has permitted the decay of our Judicial system along with every other institution of the federal government.
Congress has failed the American People and it continues to ignore its duty to the Constitution and the People.
Thanks Ron, I should of known that, but my emotions sometimes get the best of me.