And I love our feisty hero, Robert Wayne Tarus, who insisted on recording civic events despite lots of bullying and criminal prosecution. He sued in federal court, alleging claims under the U.S. Constitution (First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments) and the New Jersey Constitution and common law (false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and defamation), and lost on the federal grounds, which led to the discretionary dismissal of the state claims. Our hero started again in state court, alleging just the state common law and state constitutional claims, and he prevails!
The court finds a common law right (and doesn't need to reach the state constitutional grounds). Here's my handy cut-down of the opinion:
Today, hand-held video cameras are everywhere -- attached to our computers, a common feature in consumer still-shot cameras, and even built into recent generations of mobile telephones. The broad and pervasive use of video cameras at public events evidences a societal acceptance of their use in public fora.Hooray for the interwoven tapestry!
Commensurate with the use of video recording in society is its intrinsic value in documenting events. “Videotaping is a legitimate way of gathering information for public dissemination and can often provide cogent evidence . . . .” Robinson v. Fetterman, 378 F. Supp. 2d 534, 541 (E.D. Pa. 2005). ...
Openness is a hallmark of democracy -- a sacred maxim of our government -- and video is but a modern instrument in that evolving pursuit. The Mayor and Borough ran afoul of that principle and violated the common law right to videotape by imposing unreasonable ad hoc restrictions. Arbitrary rules that curb the openness of a public meeting are barricades against effective democracy. The use of modern technology to record and review the activities of public bodies should marshal pride in our open system of government, not muster suspicion against citizens who conduct the recording.
In sum, we hold that, subject to reasonable restrictions, members of the public have a common law right to videotape municipal proceedings in New Jersey. Our conclusion is supported by an interwoven tapestry of jurisprudence and policy that demonstrates both the value of open government and the right to document governmental proceedings.
(Sometimes the lawprof is just a cheerleader.)