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US Court Says There’s a Clear Constitutional Right To Openly Record Police

Posted: August 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bipolar Blond Momentum, Blip, Favorite New Thought . . ., Kiss My . . ., M.Aaron.Silverman, Ramble, Socially Engineered, That Human Condition, They Said What | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on US Court Says There’s a Clear Constitutional Right To Openly Record Police

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A Boston lawyer – Simon Glik– is suing the city and police officers who arrested him for using his cell phone to record what he described as a rough arrest. Glick suspects that the police who arrested him wanted more to protect themselves from a possible misconduct complaint than to enforce the state’s privacy laws. The charges against Glik were thrown out of court. However,  Glik sued for violations of his civil rights. The First Circuit ruled today that the officers are not protected by qualified immunity ::::

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Glik won a victory – 26 August 2011 – when a Federal Appeals Court stated that the officers could not claim “qualified immunity” in the case because they were performing their job when they arrested Glik under a state law that outlaws audio recordings without the consent of both parties.

“Just because it’s upsetting to the police officers and they’re unhappy about being recorded, doesn’t allow them to make an arrest,” said Howard Friedman, an ACLU attorney representing Glick “If a person is standing, as Mr. Glick was, many feet away and simply recording, that’s not a crime, even if the officers don’t like being recorded.”

In its ruling, which lets Simon Glik continue his lawsuit, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston said the way Glik was arrested and his phone seized under a state wiretapping law violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The court noted that past decisions on police recording had involved fulltime reporters, but said the First Amendment does not apply just to professional news gatherers.

The First Amendment issue here is:  is there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public? Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative. It is firmly established that the First Amendment’s aegis extends further than the text’s proscription on laws “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” and encompasses a range of conduct related to the gathering and dissemination of information. As the Supreme Court has observed, “the First Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw.

The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles. Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting “the free discussion of governmental affairs.”

“Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting “the free discussion of governmental affairs.”

The court continued that while exercise of these rights do come with limits in certain circumstances, an arrest on the Boston Common, a public area and the apotheosis of a public forum  is not one of them.

“Moreover, changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status”

There is an incredibly dubious double standard with the application of such video ~ audio laws.  Filming the police doing something “good” and there is no problem, film them doing something “bad” and your likely to end up in jail.  The First Amendment right to gather news is, as the Court has often noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media; rather, the public’s right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press. With the boundaries having shifted on who gathers news, the court recognized the proliferation of news gathering in the 21st century to include citizens, in-fact there are now more bloggers gathering news than there ever have been journalists. The freedom of individuals to passively oppose or challenge police actions without risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state.

[view the complete ruling]

Glik’s Arrest

October 2007 : Simon Glik used his cell phone to record Boston police officers making what he thought was an overtly forceful arrest of a young man in a Boston park, he never thought he’d be the one shackled in the back seat of a police car. Police spotted Glik using his cell phone’s camera with its sound-recording feature recording their actions, they arrested him for breaking a Massachusetts law that prohibits secret electronic recording, deemed “wiretapping.” Clearly however, Mr Glik made no secret of his recording of the indecent?

Was Glik wiretapping ? In Massachusetts, a “two-party consent” state since the 1960s, if one participant in a conversation wants to record it, he or she needs to notify the other. Courts have interpreted this state’s law to prohibit secretly recording not only one’s own phone conversation, but even a face-to-face encounter. (Other states, like New York, are “one-party consent” jurisdictions, where only the taper, or a third party to whom the taper has given permission, needs to know the conversation is being recorded.)

Glik, a 31-year-old lawyer, suspected that the cops who arrested him wanted more to protect themselves from a possible misconduct complaint than to enforce the state’s privacy laws.

Glik appeared in Boston Municipal Court represented by his lawyer, June Jensen, Jensen requested that the judge dismiss the Commonwealth’s charges against Glik. Neither the criminal complaint nor the police report on their face stated facts to demonstrate that what Glik did was prohibited by the laws under which he was charged, they said. Handing down his decision 3 days later, Judge Mark Summerville dismissed the charges, agreeing with Glik that non-secret recordings were lawful.

Summerville’s decision was good news for Glik, who had, ironically, been seeking a job as a prosecutor, but who has had difficulty getting hired — despite graduating at the top of the New England School of Law class of 2006 — because of the outstanding criminal charges. Despite Summerville’s decision, police are unlikely to stop arresting citizens in the future who record their misconduct. They are truly a law unto themselves.

The police had argued three separate issues in this case.

1. They’re arguing that in 2007 there was no clearly established “right to record” in public, so the police could not have known they were violating Mr. Glik’s rights.

2. They argue that no such right exists today.

3. The police allege that he is still in violation of the wiretapping act because it was not clear to police he was actually recording them. To be clear, Mr. Glik was standing on public property filming police on public property. He was stationed a short distance away and was holding his cell phone up in front of him, pointed at the police. He made no attempt to interfere, nor did he say or do anything other than record what happened.

“This case is really important here in Boston and should be important across the country, not only for the rights of citizens, but also for the rights of media members and media organizations. Both the rights of citizens to exercise the first amendment and the ‘rights’ of media organizations to report the news could be seriously crippled by repeated rulings in favor of the police in situations like these” said Radley Balko a local Bostonite and publisher of  The Agitator

After placing the suspect in handcuffs, one of the officers turned to Glik and said, “I think you have taken enough pictures.” Glik replied, “I am recording this. I saw you punch him.” An officer1 then approached Glik and asked if Glik’s cell phone recorded audio. When Glik affirmed that he was recording audio, the officer placed him in handcuffs, arresting him for, inter alia, unlawful audio recording in violation of Massachusetts’s wiretap statute. Glik was taken to the South Boston police station. In the course of booking, the police confiscated Glik’s cell phone and a computer flash drive and held them as evidence.

The Complete Ruling

United States Court of Appeals
For the First Circuit
No. 10-1764
SIMON GLIK,
Plaintiff, Appellee,
v.
JOHN CUNNIFFE, in his individual capacity; PETER J. SAVALIS, in
his individual capacity; JEROME HALL-BREWSTER, in his individual
capacity; CITY OF BOSTON,
Defendants, Appellants.
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
[Hon. William G. Young, U.S. District Judge]
Before
Torruella, Lipez, and Howard,
Circuit Judges.
Ian D. Prior, Assistant Corporation Counsel, City of Boston
Law Department, with whom William F. Sinnott, Corporation Counsel,
and Lisa Skehill Maki, Assistant Corporation Counsel, were on
brief, for appellants.
David Milton, with whom Howard Friedman, Law Offices of Howard
Friedman, P.C., Sarah Wunsch, and ACLU of Massachusetts were on
brief, for appellee.
Anjana Samant and Center for Constitutional Rights on brief
for Berkeley Copwatch, Communities United Against Police Brutality,
Justice Committee, Milwaukee Police Accountability Coalition,
Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, and Portland Copwatch,
amici curiae.
August 26, 2011LIPEZ, Circuit Judge. Simon Glik was arrested for using
his cell phone’s digital video camera to film several police
officers arresting a young man on the Boston Common. The charges
against Glik, which included violation of Massachusetts’s wiretap
statute and two other state-law offenses, were subsequently judged
baseless and were dismissed. Glik then brought this suit under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that his arrest for filming the officers
constituted a violation of his rights under the First and Fourth
Amendments.
In this interlocutory appeal, the defendant police
officers challenge an order of the district court denying them
qualified immunity on Glik’s constitutional claims. We conclude,
based on the facts alleged, that Glik was exercising clearlyestablished First Amendment rights in filming the officers in a
public space, and that his clearly-established Fourth Amendment
rights were violated by his arrest without probable cause. We
therefore affirm.
I.
We recite the pertinent facts based upon the allegations
of the complaint, Asociación de Subscripción Conjunta del Seguro de
Responsabilidad Obligatorio v. Flores Galarza, 484 F.3d 1, 6 (1st
Cir. 2007), “accepting all well-pleaded facts in the complaint as
true,” Sanchez v. Pereira-Castillo, 590 F.3d 31, 36, 52 n.15 (1st
Cir. 2009).
-2-As he was walking past the Boston Common on the evening
of October 1, 2007, Simon Glik caught sight of three police
officers — the individual defendants here — arresting a young
man. Glik heard another bystander say something to the effect of,
“You are hurting him, stop.” Concerned that the officers were
employing excessive force to effect the arrest, Glik stopped
roughly ten feet away and began recording video footage of the
arrest on his cell phone.
After placing the suspect in handcuffs, one of the
officers turned to Glik and said, “I think you have taken enough
pictures.” Glik replied, “I am recording this. I saw you punch
him.” An officer then approached Glik and asked if Glik’s cell
1
phone recorded audio. When Glik affirmed that he was recording
audio, the officer placed him in handcuffs, arresting him for,
inter alia, unlawful audio recording in violation of
Massachusetts’s wiretap statute. Glik was taken to the South
Boston police station. In the course of booking, the police
confiscated Glik’s cell phone and a computer flash drive and held
them as evidence.
Glik was eventually charged with violation of the wiretap
statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, § 99(C)(1), disturbing the peace,
id. ch. 272, § 53(b), and aiding in the escape of a prisoner, id.
It is not clear from the complaint whether this was the same
1
officer who initially addressed Glik.
-3-ch. 268, § 17. Acknowledging lack of probable cause for the last
of these charges, the Commonwealth voluntarily dismissed the count
of aiding in the escape of a prisoner. In February 2008, in
response to Glik’s motion to dismiss, the Boston Municipal Court
disposed of the remaining two charges for disturbance of the peace
and violation of the wiretap statute. With regard to the former,
the court noted that the fact that the “officers were unhappy they
were being recorded during an arrest . . . does not make a lawful
exercise of a First Amendment right a crime.” Likewise, the court
found no probable cause supporting the wiretap charge, because the
law requires a secret recording and the officers admitted that Glik
had used his cell phone openly and in plain view to obtain the
video and audio recording.
Glik filed an internal affairs complaint with the Boston
Police Department following his arrest, but to no avail. The
Department did not investigate his complaint or initiate
disciplinary action against the arresting officers. In February
2010, Glik filed a civil rights action against the officers and the
City of Boston in the United States District Court for the District
of Massachusetts. The complaint included claims under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for violations of Glik’s First and Fourth Amendment rights, as
well as state-law claims under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act,
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 12, § 11I, and for malicious prosecution.
-4-The defendants moved to dismiss Glik’s complaint under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that the
allegations of the complaint failed to adequately support Glik’s
claims and that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity
“because it is not well-settled that he had a constitutional right
to record the officers.” At a hearing on the motion, the district
court focused on the qualified immunity defense, noting that it
presented the closest issue. After hearing argument from the
parties, the court orally denied the defendants’ motion, concluding
that “in the First Circuit . . . this First Amendment right
publicly to record the activities of police officers on public
business is established.”
This timely appeal followed. Denial of a motion to
dismiss on qualified immunity grounds, unlike denial of a typical
motion to dismiss, is immediately appealable on interlocutory
review. Garnier v. Rodríguez, 506 F.3d 22, 25 (1st Cir. 2007); cf.
Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227 (1991) (per curiam) (stressing
“the importance of resolving immunity questions at the earliest
possible stage in litigation”). We limit our review to the issue
of qualified immunity, Garnier, 506 F.3d at 25, which is a legal
determination that we review de novo, Raiche v. Pietroski, 623 F.3d
30, 35 (1st Cir. 2010).
-5-II.
Long-standing principles of constitutional litigation
entitle public officials to qualified immunity from personal
liability arising out of actions taken in the exercise of
discretionary functions. See Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800,
807 (1982); Barton v. Clancy, 632 F.3d 9, 21 (1st Cir. 2011). The
qualified immunity doctrine “balances two important interests —
the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise
power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from
harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their
duties reasonably.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009).
We apply a two-prong analysis in determining questions of qualified
immunity. Maldonado v. Fontanes, 568 F.3d 263, 269 (1st Cir.
2009). These prongs, which may be resolved in any order, Pearson,
555 U.S. at 236, require that we decide “(1) whether the facts
alleged or shown by the plaintiff make out a violation of a
constitutional right; and (2) if so, whether the right was ‘clearly
established’ at the time of the defendant’s alleged violation,”
Maldonado, 568 F.3d at 269.
The latter analysis of whether a right was “clearly
established” further divides into two parts: “(1) ‘the clarity of
the law at the time of the alleged civil rights violation,’ and (2)
whether, given the facts of the particular case, ‘a reasonable
defendant would have understood that his conduct violated the
-6-plaintiff[‘s] constitutional rights.'” Barton, 632 F.3d at 22
(alteration in original) (quoting Maldonado, 568 F.3d at 269). An
affirmative finding on these inquiries does “not require a case
directly on point, but existing precedent must have placed the . .
. constitutional question beyond debate.” Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 131
S. Ct. 2074, 2083 (2011). At bottom, “the salient question is
whether the state of the law at the time of the alleged violation
gave the defendant fair warning that his particular conduct was
unconstitutional.” Maldonado, 568 F.3d at 269.
On appeal, appellants argue that they are entitled to
2
qualified immunity on each of Glik’s constitutional claims and,
accordingly, that the district erred in denying their motion to
dismiss. Their arguments track the two parts of the “clearly
3
Although the City of Boston is formally included in the
2
caption to this appeal, the parties agree that the City has no
right to immediate interlocutory appeal from a denial of qualified
immunity, as it did not — and could not — assert such a defense.
See Walden v. City of Providence, 596 F.3d 38, 55 n.23 (1st Cir.
2010). In referring to the appellants, then, we refer only to the
individual defendants appealing the denial of qualified immunity.
Appellants also argue that Glik failed to state a claim for
3
malicious prosecution under Massachusetts law because, they argue,
there was probable cause to charge Glik with a violation of the
wiretap statute. As Glik rightly points out, however, appellants
have no immediate right of appeal from denial of a motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim, and thus we do not reach
their argument. See Domegan v. Fair, 859 F.2d 1059, 1061-62 (1st
Cir. 1988) (“Notwithstanding that we have jurisdiction to review
the denial of qualified immunity midstream, ‘[a]ny additional claim
presented to and rejected by the district court must independently
satisfy the collateral-order exception to the final-judgment rule
in order for us to address it on an interlocutory appeal.'”
(alteration in original) (quoting Bonitz v. Fair, 804 F.2d 164, 173
-7-established right” analysis. With regard to the First Amendment
claim, appellants dispute the clarity of the law establishing a
First Amendment right to record police officers carrying out their
public duties. On the Fourth Amendment claim, appellants contend
that, in light of Massachusetts case law interpreting the state’s
wiretap statute, a reasonable officer would have believed there was
probable cause to arrest Glik, and thus would not have understood
that the arrest would violate the Fourth Amendment. We examine
each argument in turn.
A. Immunity from Glik’s First Amendment Claim
1. Were Glik’s First Amendment Rights Violated?
The First Amendment issue here is, as the parties frame
it, fairly narrow: is there a constitutionally protected right to
videotape police carrying out their duties in public? Basic First
Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other
circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative.
It is firmly established that the First Amendment’s
aegis extends further than the text’s proscription on laws
“abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” and encompasses
a range of conduct related to the gathering and dissemination of
information. As the Supreme Court has observed, “the First
Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the
self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting
(1st Cir. 1986))).
-8-the stock of information from which members of the public may
draw.” First Nat’l Bank v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 783 (1978); see
also Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557, 564 (1969) (“It is . . .
well established that the Constitution protects the right to
receive information and ideas.”). An important corollary to this
interest in protecting the stock of public information is that
“[t]here is an undoubted right to gather news ‘from any source by
means within the law.'” Houchins v. KQED, Inc., 438 U.S. 1, 11
(1978) (quoting Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 681-82 (1972)).
The filming of government officials engaged in their
duties in a public place, including police officers performing
their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles.
Gathering information about government officials in a form that can
readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment
interest in protecting and promoting “the free discussion of
governmental affairs.” Mills v. Alabama, 384 U.S. 214, 218 (1966).
Moreover, as the Court has noted, “[f]reedom of expression has
particular significance with respect to government because ‘[i]t is
here that the state has a special incentive to repress opposition
and often wields a more effective power of suppression.'” First
Nat’l Bank, 435 U.S. at 777 n.11 (alteration in original) (quoting
Thomas Emerson, Toward a General Theory of the First Amendment 9
(1966)). This is particularly true of law enforcement officials,
who are granted substantial discretion that may be misused to
-9-deprive individuals of their liberties. Cf. Gentile v. State Bar
of Nev., 501 U.S. 1030, 1035-36 (1991) (observing that “[t]he
public has an interest in [the] responsible exercise” of the
discretion granted police and prosecutors). Ensuring the public’s
right to gather information about their officials not only aids in
the uncovering of abuses, see id. at 1034-35 (recognizing a core
First Amendment interest in “the dissemination of information
relating to alleged governmental misconduct”), but also may have a
salutary effect on the functioning of government more generally,
see Press-Enter. Co. v. Superior Court, 478 U.S. 1, 8 (1986)
(noting that “many governmental processes operate best under public
scrutiny”).
In line with these principles, we have previously
recognized that the videotaping of public officials is an exercise
of First Amendment liberties. In Iacobucci v. Boulter, 193 F.3d 14
(1st Cir. 1999), a local journalist brought a § 1983 claim arising
from his arrest in the course of filming officials in the hallway
outside a public meeting of a historic district commission. The
commissioners had objected to the plaintiff’s filming. Id. at 18.
When the plaintiff refused to desist, a police officer on the scene
arrested him for disorderly conduct. Id. The charges were later
dismissed. Id. Although the plaintiff’s subsequent § 1983 suit
against the arresting police officer was grounded largely in the
Fourth Amendment and did not include a First Amendment claim, we
-10-explicitly noted, in rejecting the officer’s appeal from a denial
of qualified immunity, that because the plaintiff’s journalistic
activities “were peaceful, not performed in derogation of any law,
and done in the exercise of his First Amendment rights, [the
officer] lacked the authority to stop them.” Id. at 25 (emphasis
added).
Our recognition that the First Amendment protects the
filming of government officials in public spaces accords with the
decisions of numerous circuit and district courts. See, e.g.,
Smith v. City of Cumming, 212 F.3d 1332, 1333 (11th Cir. 2000)
(“The First Amendment protects the right to gather information
about what public officials do on public property, and
specifically, a right to record matters of public interest.”);
Fordyce v. City of Seattle, 55 F.3d 436, 439 (9th Cir. 1995)
(recognizing a “First Amendment right to film matters of public
interest”); Demarest v. Athol/Orange Cmty. Television, Inc., 188 F.
Supp. 2d 82, 94-95 (D. Mass. 2002) (finding it “highly probable”
that filming of a public official on street outside his home by
contributors to public access cable show was protected by the First
Amendment, and noting that, “[a]t base, plaintiffs had a
constitutionally protected right to record matters of public
interest”); Channel 10, Inc. v. Gunnarson, 337 F. Supp. 634, 638
(D. Minn. 1972) (holding that police interference with television
newsman’s filming of crime scene and seizure of video camera
-11-constituted unlawful prior restraint under First Amendment); cf.
Schnell v. City of Chi., 407 F.2d 1084, 1085 (7th Cir. 1969)
(reversing dismissal for failure to state a claim of suit claiming
police interference with news reporters and photographers’
“constitutional right to gather and report news, and to photograph
news events” under the First Amendment (internal quotation mark
omitted)), overruled on other grounds by City of Kenosha v. Bruno,
412 U.S. 507 (1973); Connell v. Town of Hudson, 733 F. Supp. 465,
471-72 (D.N.H. 1990) (denying qualified immunity from First
Amendment claim to police chief who prevented freelance
photographer from taking pictures of car accident).
It is of no significance that the present case, unlike
Iacobucci and many of those cited above, involves a private
individual, and not a reporter, gathering information about public
officials. The First Amendment right to gather news is, as the
Court has often noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of
the news media; rather, the public’s right of access to information
is coextensive with that of the press. Houchins, 438 U.S. at 16
(Stewart, J., concurring) (noting that the Constitution “assure[s]
the public and the press equal access once government has opened
its doors”); Branzburg, 408 U.S. at 684 (“[T]he First Amendment
does not guarantee the press a constitutional right of special
access to information not available to the public generally.”).
Indeed, there are several cases involving private individuals among
-12-the decisions from other courts recognizing the First Amendment
right to film. See, e.g., Smith, 212 F.3d 1332; Robinson v.
Fetterman, 378 F. Supp. 2d 534 (E.D. Pa. 2005) (holding that arrest
of individual filming police activities from private property
violated First Amendment); Cirelli v. Town of Johnston Sch. Dist.,
897 F. Supp. 663 (D.R.I. 1995) (holding that teacher had a right
under the First Amendment to videotape potentially hazardous
working conditions at school, which were a matter of public
concern). Moreover, changes in technology and society have made
the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly
difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with
video-recording capability means that many of our images of current
events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital
camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are
now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a
reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why
the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn
on professional credentials or status.
To be sure, the right to film is not without limitations.
It may be subject to reasonable time, place, and manner
restrictions. See Smith, 212 F.3d at 1333. We have no occasion to
explore those limitations here, however. On the facts alleged in
the complaint, Glik’s exercise of his First Amendment rights fell
well within the bounds of the Constitution’s protections. Glik
-13-filmed the defendant police officers in the Boston Common, the
oldest city park in the United States and the apotheosis of a
public forum. In such traditional public spaces, the rights of the
state to limit the exercise of First Amendment activity are
“sharply circumscribed.” Perry Educ. Ass’n v. Perry Local
Educators’ Ass’n, 460 U.S. 37, 45 (1983). Moreover, as in
Iacobucci, the complaint indicates that Glik “filmed [the officers]
from a comfortable remove” and “neither spoke to nor molested them
in any way” (except in directly responding to the officers when
they addressed him). 193 F.3d at 25. Such peaceful recording of
an arrest in a public space that does not interfere with the police
officers’ performance of their duties is not reasonably subject to
limitation.
In our society, police officers are expected to endure
significant burdens caused by citizens’ exercise of their First
Amendment rights. See City of Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451, 461
(1987) (“[T]he First Amendment protects a significant amount of
verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers.”).
Indeed, “[t]he freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or
challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of
the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation
from a police state.” Id. at 462-63. The same restraint demanded
of law enforcement officers in the face of “provocative and
challenging” speech, id. at 461 (quoting Terminiello v. Chicago,
-14-337 U.S. 1, 4 (1949)), must be expected when they are merely the
subject of videotaping that memorializes, without impairing, their
work in public spaces.
2. Was the Right to Film Clearly Established?
Though the “clearly established” inquiry does “not
require a case directly on point,” al-Kidd, 131 S. Ct. at 2083, we
have such a case in Iacobucci. What is particularly notable about
Iacobucci is the brevity of the First Amendment discussion, a
characteristic found in other circuit opinions that have recognized
a right to film government officials or matters of public interest
in public space. See Smith, 212 F.3d at 1333; Fordyce, 55 F.3d at
439. This terseness implicitly speaks to the fundamental and
virtually self-evident nature of the First Amendment’s protections
in this area. Cf. Lee v. Gregory, 363 F.3d 931, 936 (9th Cir.
2004) (noting that some constitutional violations are “selfevident” and do not require particularized case law to substantiate
them). We thus have no trouble concluding that “the state of the
law at the time of the alleged violation gave the defendant[s] fair
warning that [their] particular conduct was unconstitutional.”
Maldonado, 568 F.3d at 269.
We find unavailing the two cases principally relied upon
by the appellants in arguing that the First Amendment right to film
was not clearly established at the time of the arrest, both of
which were decided after Glik’s arrest. The first is an
-15-unpublished per curiam opinion from the Fourth Circuit that
summarily concludes, with no discussion of the facts or relevant
law, that the “right to record police activities on public property
was not clearly established in this circuit at the time of the
alleged conduct.” Szymecki v. Houck, 353 F. App’x 852 (4th Cir.
2009). Such unpublished opinions “have no precedential force,”
Merrimac Paper Co. v. Harrison (In re Merrimac Paper Co.), 420 F.3d
53, 60 (1st Cir. 2005); see also United States v. King, 628 F.3d
693, 700 n.3 (4th Cir. 2011) (same), and the absence of substantive
discussion deprives Szymecki of any marginal persuasive value it
might otherwise have had.
The second case appellants cite is a Third Circuit
opinion finding the right to film not clearly established in the
context of a traffic stop, characterized as an “inherently
dangerous situation[].” Kelly v. Borough of Carlisle, 622 F.3d
248, 262 (3d Cir. 2010). Kelly is clearly distinguishable on its
facts; a traffic stop is worlds apart from an arrest on the Boston
Common in the circumstances alleged. Nonetheless, even if these
cases were to establish a circuit split with respect to the clarity
of the First Amendment’s protections in the situation before us,
that split would not undermine our conclusion that the right
violated by appellants was clearly established in this circuit at
the time of Glik’s arrest. See Newman v. Massachusetts, 884 F.2d
19, 25 (1st Cir. 1989) (finding constitutional right clearly
-16-established in the First Circuit despite “recogni[tion] that the
courts are not yet unanimous on whether this . . . right exists”).
In summary, though not unqualified, a citizen’s right to
film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in
the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital,
and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.
Accordingly, we hold that the district court did not err in denying
qualified immunity to the appellants on Glik’s First Amendment
claim.
B. Immunity from Glik’s Fourth Amendment Claim
1. Were Glik’s Fourth Amendment Rights Violated?
The existence of a Fourth Amendment violation on the
facts alleged here turns on a question of Massachusetts law. The
Fourth Amendment requires that an arrest be grounded in probable
cause, Martínez-Rodríguez v. Guevara, 597 F.3d 414, 420 (1st Cir.
2010), i.e., that, “at the time of the arrest, the ‘facts and
circumstances within the officer’s knowledge . . . [were]
sufficient to warrant a prudent person, or one of reasonable
caution, in believing, in the circumstances shown, that the suspect
[had] committed, [was] committing, or [was] about to commit an
offense,'” Holder v. Town of Sandown, 585 F.3d 500, 504 (1st Cir.
2009) (quoting Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U.S. 31, 37 (1979)).
The thrust of Glik’s Fourth Amendment claim is that the appellants
lacked any such probable cause that Glik had violated state law at
-17-the time of arrest. The appellants argue, to the contrary, that
the allegations of the complaint establish probable cause that Glik
violated Massachusetts’s wiretap statute. Upon examination of the
4
statute and relevant case law from Massachusetts’s Supreme Judicial
Court, we disagree.
Massachusetts’s wiretap statute makes it a crime to
“willfully commit[] an interception . . . of any wire or oral
communication.” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, § 99(C)(1). As the
Supreme Judicial Court has noted, this statute sweeps more broadly
than comparable laws in other jurisdictions, in that its
prohibition is not restricted to the recording of communications
that are made with a reasonable expectation of privacy. See
Commonwealth v. Hyde, 750 N.E.2d 963, 967-68 & n.5 (Mass. 2001).
5
The critical limiting term in the statute is “interception,”
defined to mean “to secretly hear, secretly record, or aid another
Appellants do not attempt any argument that the facts make
4
out probable cause for the other two offenses with which Glik was
charged, disturbing the peace and aiding in the escape of a
prisoner.
In Hyde, the defendant argued that the wiretap statute did
5
not apply to his taping of police officers, as those “police
officers did not possess any privacy interest in the words they
spoke” in their interactions with the defendant. 750 N.E.2d at
965. The court rejected the argument, noting that the statute
requires no reasonable expectation of privacy, and held that the
prohibition of secret recordings squarely applies to “recordings of
police officers or other public officials interacting with members
of the public.” Id. at 967. Thus, in the present case, the fact
that the subjects of Glik’s recording were police officers is
immaterial to the question of the wiretap statute’s applicability.
-18-to secretly hear or secretly record the contents of any wire or
oral communication through the use of any intercepting device by
any person other than a person given prior authority by all parties
to such communication.” Id. § 99(B)(4).
The relevant question, then, is whether, on the facts
alleged in the complaint, Glik “secretly” videotaped the appellant
officers. The Supreme Judicial Court has held that a recording is
6
“secret” unless the subject has “actual knowledge” of the fact of
recording. Commonwealth v. Jackson, 349 N.E.2d 337, 340 (Mass.
1976). It has also made clear that “actual knowledge” can be
proven by “objective manifestations of knowledge” to “avoid the
problems involved in speculating as to the [subject’s] subjective
state of mind.” Id. at 340-41. Moreover, the court has noted that
“actual knowledge” does not require that there be any explicit
Glik also points to the statute’s language requiring that an
6
offender “willfully commit[] an interception,” Mass. Gen. Laws ch.
272, § 99(C)(1) (emphasis added), and argues that there was no
probable cause for his arrest because his recording was not
“willful.” In this vein, he notes that he was holding his camera
in plain view and readily acknowledged that he was recording sound
when asked. However, the relevant precedent suggests that the
statute’s reference to willfulness requires only a specific intent
to record a particular communication, rather than requiring an
intent to hide the recording from the subject or some other
“willful” state of mind. See Commonwealth v. Ennis, 785 N.E.2d
677, 681 (Mass. 2003) (noting that the Department of Correction
“did willfully record” a telephone call, under circumstances where
the Department expressly advised the participants that their
conversation would be recorded). The allegations of the complaint
leave no doubt that Glik intended to record appellants’ conduct of
the arrest, and thus we see no merit in Glik’s argument on this
point.
-19-acknowledgment of or reference to the fact of the recording. Id.
at 340 (“[T]he person recording the conversation [need not] confirm
the [subject’s] apparent awareness by acknowledging the fact of the
intercepting device.”). Thus, in Hyde, where the defendant was
convicted of a wiretap violation for secretly recording a traffic
stop, the Supreme Judicial Court explained that “the recording
would not have been secret” within the meaning of the statute if
the defendant had simply “held the tape recorder in plain sight.”
750 N.E.2d at 971. The unmistakable logic of Hyde, building on
Jackson, is that the secrecy inquiry turns on notice, i.e.,
whether, based on objective indicators, such as the presence of a
recording device in plain view, one can infer that the subject was
aware that she might be recorded.
Commonwealth v. Rivera, 833 N.E.2d 1113 (Mass. 2005),
forcefully illustrates this point. There, a criminal defendant
argued for suppression under the wiretap statute of an audio
recording by a convenience store security camera, on the theory
that he lacked actual knowledge that the security cameras recorded
audio as well as video. Although the case was resolved on other
grounds, four of the seven justices of the Supreme Judicial Court
concurred to note that the defendant’s unawareness of the audio
recording capabilities of the security cameras did not render the
recordings “secret” under the wiretap statute where the cameras
were in plain sight. Id. at 1125 (Cowin, J., concurring in part)
-20-(“That the defendant did not know the camera also included an audio
component does not convert this otherwise open recording into the
type of ‘secret’ interception prohibited by the Massachusetts
wiretap statute.”); id. at 1130 (Cordy, J., concurring) (“Just
because a robber with a gun may not realize that the surveillance
camera pointed directly at him is recording both his image and his
voice does not . . . make the recording a ‘secret’ one within the
meaning and intent of the statute.”).
The complaint alleges that Glik “openly record[ed] the
police officers” with his cell phone, and further that “the police
officers admitted Mr. Glik was publicly and openly recording them.”
On its face, this conduct falls plainly outside the type of
clandestine recording targeted by the wiretap statute. See
Jackson, 349 N.E.2d at 339 (“While we recognize that [the wiretap
statute] is designed to control the use of electronic surveillance
devices by private individuals because of the serious threat they
pose to ‘the privacy of all citizens,’ (§ 99A), it is clear that
the Legislature intended that the statutory restrictions be
applicable only to the secret use of such devices.” (emphasis
added)). Moreover, not only does Hyde (along with the Rivera
concurrences) indicate that the use of a recording device in “plain
sight,” as here, constitutes adequate objective evidence of actual
knowledge of the recording, but here the police officers made clear
through their conduct that they knew Glik was recording them.
-21-Specifically, one of the police officers approached Glik after the
suspect had been handcuffed and told him, “I think you have taken
enough pictures.”
The officers protest that Glik’s use of a cell phone was
insufficient to put them on notice of the recording. They note
that a cell phone, unlike the tape recorder used in Hyde, has
numerous discrete functions, such as text messaging, internet
browsing, video gaming, and photography, and thus the fact of an
individual holding out a cell phone in front of his body is of
indeterminate significance. The argument suffers from factual as
well as legal flaws. The allegations of the complaint indicate
that the officers were cognizant of Glik’s surveillance, knew that
Glik was using his phone to record them in some fashion, and were
aware, based on their asking Glik whether he was recording audio,
that cell phones may have sound recording capabilities. The fact
that a cell phone may have other functions is thus irrelevant to
the question of whether Glik’s recording was “secret.”
Appellants’ argument reduces to the contention that,
though they were aware of Glik’s recording, they initially thought
Glik was taking pictures of them rather than recording video and
audio. This is almost precisely the argument rejected by the four
concurring justices in Rivera, and it runs directly contrary to the
logic of Hyde’s “plain view” discussion. Taking the appellants’
argument to its logical end, the Hyde defendant’s recording would
-22-have escaped a wiretap offense only if he had held his tape
recorder in plain view and there was affirmative evidence that the
officers were aware that the device was switched on and recording
audio. To the contrary, Hyde makes the point that the use in plain
view of a device commonly known to record audio is, on its own,
sufficient evidence from which to infer the subjects’ actual
knowledge of the recording. See 750 N.E.2d at 971 (noting that
recording would not have been secret under the statute if “the
defendant had simply informed the police of his intention to tape
record the encounter, or even held the tape recorder in plain
sight” (emphasis added)). Simply put, a straightforward reading of
the statute and case law cannot support the suggestion that a
recording made with a device known to record audio and held in
plain view is “secret.”
We thus conclude, on the facts of the complaint, that
Glik’s recording was not “secret” within the meaning of
Massachusetts’s wiretap statute, and therefore the officers lacked
probable cause to arrest him. Accordingly, the complaint makes out
a violation of Glik’s Fourth Amendment rights.
2. Was the Absence of Probable Cause Clearly Established
Under the Circumstances?
Appellants contend that, regardless of whether Glik’s
conduct in fact violated the wiretap law, the state of the law was
such that a reasonable officer would not have understood that
arresting Glik for a wiretap offense under the circumstances
-23-alleged in the complaint would violate Glik’s Fourth Amendment
rights. They point out, rightly, that a lesser showing is required
for an officer to be entitled to qualified immunity from a Fourth
Amendment claim based on a warrantless arrest than to establish
probable cause. See Cox v. Hainey, 391 F.3d 25, 31 (1st Cir.
2004). Officers are entitled to qualified immunity “so long as the
presence of probable cause is at least arguable.” Ricci v. Urso,
974 F.2d 5, 7 (1st Cir. 1992) (quoting Prokey v. Watkins, 942 F.2d
67, 72 (1st Cir. 1991)).
The presence of probable cause was not even arguable
here. The allegations of the complaint establish that Glik was
openly recording the police officers and that they were aware of
his surveillance. For the reasons we have discussed, we see no
basis in the law for a reasonable officer to conclude that such a
conspicuous act of recording was “secret” merely because the
officer did not have actual knowledge of whether audio was being
recorded. We thus agree with the district court that, at this
stage in the litigation, the officers are not entitled to qualified
immunity from Glik’s Fourth Amendment claim.
III.
For the reasons set forth above, we affirm the district
court’s order denying appellants’ claim of qualified immunity.
So ordered.
-24-


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