Court of Appeal to Reconsider the Right of Witnesses to Record Police | Courts

[U]Until this Court declares that the law is established, there is no significant deterrent against police physically preventing passers-by from checking them in, or motivation for local courts to order officers not to. not interfere with recordings, “nine academics from the First Amendment to the 10th Circuit Friday wrote in a memoir supporting Irizarry’s appeal.

According to Irizarry’s complaint, he and three other “YouTube journalists / bloggers” were recording Lakewood police performing an early morning motorist field sobriety test in May 2019. Constable Ahmed Yehia is said to have arrived and would have stood in front of Irizarry to obstruct the camera.

After Irizarry began to express his disapproval, Yehia allegedly turned on his flashlight in the camera, crushing the sensors. Irizarry’s complaint also contained allegations that Yehia drove directly at Irizarry and swerved around him, and other officers ordered Yehia to stop.

Irizarry then sued Yehia for violating his right to freedom of the press. In June of this year, US trial judge Nina Y. Wang determined that there was no clearly established First Amendment right to register police at the time of the encounter, and dismissed the lawsuit.

However, in a minor victory for civil rights claimants, she also ruled that such a right now exists.

Irizarry’s appeal argues that it was “clear to any law enforcement officer” that passers-by had the right to register police, even without a 10th Circuit ruling saying so. Irizarry came to this conclusion by bringing together principles from previous Supreme Court decisions, such as the right to criticize the government and to disseminate information.

“As of May 2019, each of these threads of First Amendment doctrine – the interwoven rights to collect, create, disseminate, receive and debate information about public officials – established with evident clarity that individuals have the constitutional right to film police officers during traffic. stops subject to reasonable restrictions of time, place and manner, ”the brief states.

Although Irizarry represented himself in the court of first instance, his appeal is now in the hands of the famous international law firm Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer. His lawyers have carefully attempted to distance their client’s case from the Frasier decision. They argue that the 10th Circuit may uphold that ruling while finding in favor of Irizarry, because in the years since Denver Police allegedly retaliated against Frasier, six other circuit appeal courts have found that the passers-by had the right to register First Amendment police.

Irizarry, who has no fixed address, said his case represents an important legal issue for the six states covered by the 10th Circuit.

“I’m just humbled [by] the incredible legal support I have received, “he said in an email.” I hope that question is finally answered. There wouldn’t be [George] Floyd were it not for the Pulitzer Prize-winning citizen journalist who filmed the incident. The right to register police must be established in the 10th Circuit for the sake of freedoms. “

Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded Floyd’s May 2020 police murder in Minneapolis, received a special citation and a Pulitzer Prize for the video. Colorado’s landmark Police Accountability Act came into effect in large part due to global protests in response to the video.

The First Amendment academics who signed the Irizarry memorandum also stressed the importance of holding the police accountable, ensuring respectful interactions between police and citizens, and protecting the rights of viewers. Signatories to the brief included Professors Alan K. Chen and Justin Marceau of the University of Denver, and Helen Norton, Scott Skinner-Thompson and Margot E. Kaminski of the University of Colorado.

Yehia has not yet filed a response brief.

The case is Irizarry v. Yehia.


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