U.S. Court of Appeals to hear case on video recording of police

Boston police officers arrested Simon Glik for using his cell phone to record their use of force against another person on Boston Common.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Christopher Ott, Communications Director, 617-482-3170 x322, cott@aclum.org

BOSTON -- On Wednesday, June 8, the U.S. Court of Appeals will hear a case on the right to record police activity, stemming from the arrest of a passerby who videotaped Boston Police in action. In October 2007, Boston police arrested Simon Glik, a young attorney, and charged him with illegal wiretapping, aiding the escape of a prisoner, and disturbing the peace, after Glik merely held up his cell phone and openly recorded Boston police officers who were using force to arrest another person on the Boston Common.

WHAT: Oral Argument in Glik v. Cunniffe

WHY: First Amendment right to openly observe and document police conduct is at issue

WHO: Simon Glik, arrested by Boston Police in 2007 for video recording police use of force

WHERE: U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, One Courthouse Way, Boston, Panel Courtroom, 7th Floor

WHEN: June 8, 2011; court begins at 9:30am. The Glik case is currently scheduled to be heard fifth, but it is uncertain if that order will be changed. It is possible the case will not be heard until after 11am

CONTACT: Christopher Ott, Communications Director, 617-482-3170 x322, cott@aclum.org

The Suffolk DA's office immediately dropped the "aiding the escape of a prisoner" charge but pursued the wiretap charge (a felony) and disturbing the peace. After a judge of the Boston Municipal Court threw out those charges, the ACLU of Massachusetts brought a civil rights suit on behalf of Mr. Glik, charging that the police officers and the City had violated his rights under the First Amendment to openly observe and document the conduct of police officers carrying out their duties in a public place, and his right under the Fourth Amendment to be free from an arrest not based on probable cause to believe he had committed a crime.

All of the individual police officers asked the U.S. District Court to throw out the case against them on the grounds of "qualified immunity" which protects government officials from the burdens of a lawsuit only if the allegations of the complaint do not show a constitutional violation, or if they do constitute a violation of a constitutional right, the right was not clearly established, and a reasonable police officer would not have known about it.

In June 2010, U.S. District Court Judge William Young denied the police officers' request to have the case against them dismissed, stating that the law was clearly established that the First Amendment protected Glik's conduct, and refused to grant them qualified immunity from suit.

The police officers have appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals, which will hear oral argument on Wednesday, June 8. The claims against the City of Boston for failing to train and supervise police officers about the right of Americans to observe and openly record the conduct of the police in public is not subject to qualified immunity and have continued on in the U.S. District Court.

David Milton of the Boston firm Law Offices of Howard Friedman is the cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Massachusetts and will be arguing for Simon Glik, asking the First Circuit to affirm Judge Young's ruling. He, his colleague Howard Friedman, and ACLU of Massachusetts staff attorney Sarah Wunsch have been representing Glik on the civil rights lawsuit.

For more details, including video of the arrest witnessed by Mr. Glik, see: