Apparently you do not have a First Amendment right to photograph the police in Pennsylvania. Unless you do a little jig.

February 22, 2016

This could be a significant blow to the First Amendment, as apparently videotaping the police is not protected speech in Pennsylvania. Unless, of course, you also decide to yell at them or do a jig at the same time.

I wish I were joking, but I’m not…

Two cases before the United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, were recently consolidated into one for the purpose of determining “whether photographing or filming police on our portable devices without challenging police is expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.”

This is the trial court’s entire opinion, if you want to read the decision in its entirety.

The underlying facts are simple:

In the first case, Temple University student Richard Fields was standing on the sidewalk. There were 20 police officers standing outside a house party. Fields thought it was worth photographing for whatever reason. The police officer asked Fields to leave and stop taking pictures. Fields refused and continued to film. The police officer then took his phone and arrested him. Fields wasn’t taping the matter to protest the police or anything like that. He simply felt like recording it, maybe to put on Facebook, Instragram, or Philly Law Blog (holla!). The student did not claim to be protesting the police (or the house party for that matter), but merely recording the event.

In the second case, Amanda Geraci was at a protest. During the protest, the Philadelphia police arrested one of the protestors. Geraci moved closer to get a better view and hoped to videotape the incident. Geraci claims Officer Brown “attacked her” by physically restraining her against a pillar and preventing her from videotaping the arrest. Geraci claims that “I was just legal observing.”

Both sued the Philadelphia Police Department under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for First Amendment Retaliation.

Read the rest of this entry »


Can Lawyers Get Away With Anything? Court Declares the Dragonetti Act Unconstitutional

December 26, 2015

Generally, Pennsylvania attorneys’ actions are governed by the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct. However, if an attorney abuses process by filing and maintaining a lawsuit that was either grossly negligent or without probable cause, the attorney can also be held liable in a civil court under what’s known as the Dragonetti Act, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8351.

The standard to hold an attorney liable is high. Not only does one have to file and maintain a lawsuit that was either grossly negligent or without probable cause, but it also has to terminate favorably on the merits. This means you can go through years of frivolous litigation with little to no recourse. More often than not, litigants get burned out from incurring legal fees, and simply settle the case rather than take a chance on recovering their fees in a Dragonetti Action.

Nevertheless, and despite it’s high burdens, the Dragonetti Act is particularly important because Pennsylvania does not have an anti-SLAPP statute.

Read the rest of this entry »


In case it’s not perfectly clear…

July 1, 2014
GetAWarrantiPhone

Get a Warrant — for iPhone

I made this on my iPhone yesterday, and it currently serves as my lock screen.

Feel free to download and use it appropriately.

Tell your friends and share as much as you’d like. Get the word out there that police may not search your phone without your consent or a warrant, thanks to Riley v. California.

(Wikipedia here, SCOTUS opinion here, OYEZ project link here).

While you’re at it, turn off location services.

Edit: I had a colleague point out to me that the text is obscured by the unlock dots on some Android phones. An Android version is below the fold.

2nd Edit: Ken at Popehat requested a special custom version, which is also below the fold. Use at your own risk.
Read the rest of this entry »