Today a federal judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California heard oral argument on CIR’s motion, on behalf of James O’Keefe, to invalidate California’s law that bans citizens from recording what police officers say to them at traffic stops.
O’Keefe is being sued by Juan Carlos Vera, a former ACORN employee featured in a video O’Keefe filmed in San Diego’s ACORN office. On O’Keefe’s behalf, CIR attorney Christopher Hajec argued at the hearing today before Judge M. James Lorenz that the law Vera is basing his suit on — a statute making it illegal to record so-called “confidential” communications without consent — is unconstitutional. Since nearly everyone today has cell phones that can record sound, Hajec argued, most people who might violate this statute are ordinary citizens who have no desire to invade anyone’s privacy, but rather wish to engage in such First Amendment-protected activity as recording public officials — for example, police officers — performing their duties in public. CIR maintains that because the statute threatens those who wish to make such recordings with jail time, it is an overbroad restriction on speech under the First Amendment and should be struck down.
Judge Lorenz said he would take the motion under advisement and issue a decision “relatively soon.”