Good news (for once): Court blocks Arizona’s ban on filming police

Filming police

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction last week preventing Arizona’s law restricting the filming of police from taking effect.

The Republican-controlled state legislature passed a bill (HB 2319) earlier this year making it unlawful for a person to record law enforcement activity within 8 feet without an officer’s permission. A violation of HB 2319 is a class 3 misdemeanor.

The ACLU and local news organizations sued Arizona, arguing the law criminalizes First Amendment freedoms.

“We have a right to hold police officers accountable by recording their activities in public,” said Esha Bhandari, deputy director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “Arizona’s law will prevent people from engaging in recording that doesn’t interfere with police activity, and it will suppress the reporting and advocacy that results from video evidence of police misconduct. The First Amendment does not permit that outcome.”

U.S. District Judge John Tuchi, and Obama appointee, agreed, noting that “the Ninth Circuit has recognized that there is a ‘clearly established’ right to ‘record law enforcement officers engaged in the exercise of their official duties in public places’ under the First Amendment.”

Ostensibly, the aim of HB2319 is to prevent interference with or distractions of law enforcement officers. (Doc. 24 at 13.) However, Arizona already has other laws on its books to prevent interference with police officers. Thus, HB2319 is not “necessary.” Additionally, HB2319 is not narrowly tailored—it is simultaneously over-inclusive and under-inclusive. If the goal of HB2319 is to prevent interference with law enforcement activities, the Court fails to see how the presence of a person recording a video near an officer interferes with the officer’s activities. This reflects HB2319’s over-inclusivity. Further, as Plaintiffs note, HB2319 prohibits only “video recording” and does not address audio recordings or photographs taken from the same distance or device, nor does it address persons who may be using their mobile phones for other purposes, such as texting. (Doc. 24 at 15.) As Plaintiffs correctly point out, this makes HB2319 impermissibly under-inclusive, demonstrating that the law’s purpose is not to prevent interference with law enforcement, but to prevent recording.

Electric Chair

A South Carolina judge ruled last week that the state’s execution methods of electrocution and the firing squad are cruel and unusual, and both therefore violate the state Constitution.

The South Carolina legislature passed a bill, S.200, last year that forces individuals on death row to choose either being shot or electrocuted if lethal injection drugs aren’t available. The law brought back two methods of execution once deemed too inhumane for modern times. But with drug suppliers refusing to supply American prisons with substances used in lethal injections, states eager to carry out death sentences are turning to experimental and outdated methods of killing people.

Four individuals sentenced to death sued the state, arguing that, among other claims, “both electrocution and the firing squad are prohibited by the South Carolina Constitution.” Circuit Court Judge Jocelyn Newman agreed, finding that electrocution and firing squads amount to “torture” and “pain beyond that necessary for the mere extinguishment of death.”

Lethal injection is the least severe of the three statutorily authorized punishments, and the amended statute effectively revokes that lesser punishment. When Plaintiffs committed their crimes and received their death sentences, the default method of execution was lethal injection, which is according to the Supreme Court of the United States is believed to be the most humane (execution method) available…

In 2021, South Carolina turned back the clock and became the only state in the country in which a person may be forced into the electric chair if he refuses to elect how he will die. In doing so, the General Assembly ignored advances in scientific research and evolving standards of humanity and decency.

South Carolina Gov. McMaster filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court seeking to overturn Judge Newman’s ruling.

Conversation therapy

A three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld Washington state’s ban on conversion therapy for minors last week.

Conversion therapy is any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The practice is rejected by mainstream medical and mental health organizations and, according to the Human Rights Campaign, “can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.”

Washington prohibited conversion therapy for minors in 2018. Family therapist Brian Tingley sued, claiming that the ban violates his free speech and free exercise rights under the First Amendment.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of Tingley’s complaint. “States do not lose the power to regulate the safety of medical treatments performed under the authority of a state license merely because those treatments are implemented through speech rather than through scalpel,” the court wrote.

In relying on the body of evidence before it as well as the medical recommendations of expert organizations, the Washington Legislature rationally acted by amending its regulatory scheme for licensed health care providers to add ‘performing conversion therapy on a patient under age eighteen’ to the list of unprofessional conduct for the health professions.

Tingley was represented by the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).