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Supreme Court Upholds Decision Blocking Enforcement Of Illinois Eavesdropping Law

By aaroncynic in News on Nov 26, 2012 7:00PM

Photo Credit: .Alek.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that found the Illinois anti-eavesdropping law a violation of free speech, reports the Chicago Tribune. The law, which has had several challenges to it since the ACLU filed suit in 2010 to block its enforcement, made it a crime to record law enforcement carrying out their duties in the public sphere and was punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison. Just prior to the NATO summit in May, a federal appeals court banned police from enforcing it. The Illinois House amended the law after the summit to allow for audio recordings of law enforcement officials.

The Court refused to hear the case, Anita Alvarez v. ACLU of Illinois, which allows the ruling from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in May to stand. In the original decision, Judge Diane Sykes wrote:

“The Illinois eavesdropping statue restricts a medium of expression commonly used for the preservation and communication of information and ideas, thus triggering First Amendment scrutiny” and that the “statute restricts far more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests.”

Harvey Grossman, Legal Director for the ACLU of Illinois said in a statement:

We are pleased that the Supreme Court has refused to take this appeal. Now, we can focus on the on-going proceedings in the federal district court. We now hope to obtain a permanent injunction in this case, so that the ACLU’s program of monitoring police activity in public can move forward in the future without any threat of prosecution…While a final ruling in this case will only address the work of the ACLU of Illinois to monitor police activity, we believe that it will have a ripple effect throughout the entire state. We are hopeful that we are moving closer to a day when no one in Illinois will risk prosecution when they audio record public officials performing their duties.”