Does the First Amendment Only Apply to Media? Is There a Right to Record?

Do you have to be a journalist to have First Amendment protections to film in public? Is there a right to record police or other government officials in public? Let me tell you what the federal courts have said…..

To record what there is for the eye to see, or the ear to hear, corroborates or lays aside subjective impressions for objective facts. Hence to record is to see and hear more accurately. Recordings also facilitate discussion because of the ease in which they can be widely distributed via different forms of media. Accordingly, recording police activity in public falls squarely within the First Amendment right of access to information. As no doubt the press has this right, so does the public. See PG Publ’g. Co. v. Aichele, 705 F.3d 91, 99 (3d Cir. 2013); Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 684, 92 S.Ct. 2646, 33 L.Ed.2d 626 (1972) (quoting Fields v. City of Phila., 862 F.3d 353, 359 (3rd Cir. 2017)).

Under the First Amendment’s right of access to information the public has the commensurate right to record—photograph, film, or audio record—police officers conducting official police activity in public areas. Fields v. City of Phila., 862 F.3d 353, 360 (3rd Cir. 2017) (“The First Amendment protects actual photos, videos, and recordings, and for this protection to have meaning the Amendment must also protect the act of creating that material.” (citation omitted)); See also ACLU v. Alvarez, 679 F.3d 583, 599–600 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 651, 184 L.Ed.2d 459 (2012) (holding that an Illinois eavesdropping statute did not protect police officers from a civilian openly recording them with a cell phone); Turner v. Lieutenant Driver, 848 F.3d 678, 689 (5th Cir. 2017) (“[T]he First Amendment protects the act of making film, as there is no fixed First Amendment line between the act of creating speech and the speech itself.” (quotation omitted); W. Watersheds Project v. Michael, 869 F.3d 1189 (10th Cir. 2017) (agreeing with several sister circuits that recording the conduct of officials in general is protected First Amendment speech); Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78, 79 (1st Cir.2011) (holding there is an “unambiguous[ ]” constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public); Smith v. Cumming, 212 F.3d 1332, 1333 (11th Cir.2000) (finding plaintiffs “had a First Amendment right, subject to reasonable time, manner and place restrictions, to photograph or videotape police conduct”); Fordyce v. City of Seattle, 55 F.3d 436, 439 (9th Cir.1995) (recognizing plaintiff’s videotaping of police officers as a “First Amendment right to film matters of public interest”). 

Furthermore, there can be no doubt that the public has the right to record police officers and government officials from the vantage point of standing on their own private property – and indeed, standing in their own front yard, or within their home.

Can the recordings then be seized by police?

Recently, the Fourth Circuit observed in the context of a claim of seizure of cell phone video footage by law enforcement, that we live “[i]n an era in which cell phones are increasingly used to capture much of what happens in daily life” and that such recordings are protected from seizure by law enforcement under the Fourth Amendment. Hupp v. State Trooper Seth Cook, 931 F.3d 307, 329 (4th Cir. 2019).

But, keep in mind, they could still be subject to seizure without a warrant under the exigent circumstances doctrine…..

The “Outlaw Barber” Arrested for Refusing to Close During the Lockdown Files Civil Rights Lawsuit

Today we filed suit in the case of the “Outlaw Barber,” Winerd “Les” Jenkins, a 73 year old combat veteran and former 27-year Deputy U.S. Marshall, who was arrested for refusing to close his barbershop during the Governor’s lockdown in April of 2020. We filed a Section 1983 civil rights lawsuit in federal court, in the Northern District of West Virginia.

The case was detailed last year in a Federalist article titled, West Virginia Barber’s Arrest Shows Failings Of The Bureaucratic State:

When Winerd “Les” Jenkins first became a barber, Neil Armstrong hadn’t yet set foot on the moon. For over five decades, Jenkins has made a living with his scissors and razor. For the past decade, he’s worked his craft from a storefront in Inwood, West Virginia. At Les’ Place Traditional Barber Shop, you can get a regular men’s haircut for $16 and a shave for $14—but come prepared to pay the old-fashioned way: in cash.

His insistence on “cash only” isn’t the only thing that’s old-school about Jenkins. He lives with his wife of 52 years on a small farm, where the couple raises rescued animals. He believes in paying his bills on time. He doesn’t use the internet, email, or text messaging. And he’s skeptical that his profession can become illegal overnight merely on the governor’s say-so.

He was ultimately arrested by two deputies from the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office, who transported Mr. Jenkins for incarceration and charged him with “obstructing” an officer. The prosecuting attorney’s office of that county then aggressively prosecuted Mr. Jenkins for the better part of a year, until the judge finally dismissed the charge in January of 2021, finding that it would be a violation of Mr. Jenkins’s constitutional rights to prosecute him for violating the governor’s executive order.

We asserted two separate violations of Mr. Jenkins’ Fourth Amendment rights (unreasonable search and seizure and false arrest), as well as a violation of Mr. Jenkins’ First Amendment rights. It’s already been assigned a case number. Read it for yourself:

I’ve already revealed the body cam footage from one of the deputies, which caught much of the interaction on video:

The Constitutional Rights of Parents – with TN Divorce Attorney Andy Fox

Is there a constitutional right to be a parent? Join my live discussion with Tennessee Divorce Attorney Andy Fox about some of the child custody shenanigans that go on, as well as the constitutional rights to be a parent, and other things. #ChildCustody#FamilyCourt#DivorceAttorney​ Join us live at 6:30 pm ET on Freedom is Scary – Episode No. 60.

If you love FREEDOM, should you be using CRYPTOCURRENCY? I talk with co-Founder of TUSC

If you love life, liberty, property, the Second Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and basically all civil rights, you should understand the potential lifeline of freedom that is made possible due to cryptocurrency. The easiest way to destroy the Second Amendment is to make it impossible for the firearms industry to transact business through corporate suppression of free speech and free enterprise. Even worse, the mainstream corporate financial institutions have a history of partnering with the federal government to share your private data for use in criminal prosecutions and other activities against your consent and constitutional rights.

As suggested by John Crump of the GOA (Gun Owners of America) from FIS Episode No. 45, I’m talking tonight with the co-Founder of TUSC (The Universal Settlement Coin), a decentralized, non-ICO cryptocurrency project that is focused supporting the retail firearms industry with their payments issues. Rob McNealy is a serial entrepreneur, podcaster, cryptocurrency advocate, self-defense activist and recovering corporate MBA.

Join me tonight on Freedom is Scary Live, Episode No. 46. Tonight at 6:30 p.m. Eastern:

TUSC, The Universal Settlement Coin, is an open source, pure payments cryptocurrency project built on a delegated proof of stake (DPOS) blockchain. TUSC is a decentralized, non-ICO, community project with on-chain governance. TUSC was purpose built for retailer adoption using a unique marketing model with an elected and term limited third-party vendor called the Marketing Partner, whose role is to support the onboarding of retailers and to promote TUSC through aggressive marketing and sales strategies to vertical markets and industries with recognized problems with existing payment systems.

More about Rob McNealy and TUSC: Rob McNealy: Podcast Website: https://robmcnealy.com​ Twitter: https://twitter.com/robmcnealy​ (365,000+ followers) IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm11393442​ LBRY: https://lbry.tv/$/invite/@robmcnealy:e​ Minds: https://www.minds.com/robmcnealy​ Rarible:https://app.rarible.com/robmcnealy​ LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robmcnealy​ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/robmcnealya…​ YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/robmcnealy​ Everipedia: https://everipedia.org/wiki/lang_en/r…​ Parler: https://parler.com/robmcnealy​ Medium: https://robmcnealy.medium.com​ TUSC: Twitter: https://twitter.com/tuscnetwork​ TUSC Website: https://tusc.network​ TUSC Marketing Partner Website: https://tuscmp.one​ LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/tusc…​ LBRY: https://lbry.tv/$/invite/@TUSC:a​ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tuscnetwork​ LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/tusc…​ YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/tuscnetwork​ Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/23371…​ Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TUSCNetwork​ Recent media: https://freebeacon.com/guns/cryptocur…https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/gun…

Update on the Jefferson County Superintendent Lawsuit

The first of my two clients in the federal civil rights lawsuit filed yesterday against the superintendent of Jefferson County Schools had her disciplinary hearing today, where the “evidence” was presented of her alleged involvement in the violence at the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday. Apparently the only evidence presented was a conspicuously-absent anonymous “report.” According to the attorney at the scene, Bondy Gibson, the superintendent who leveled the accusations, refused to provide a copy of the allegations, the name of the person making the allegation, or any of the social media posts the individual referenced.

Apparently, what actually happened, is that the Board office reviewed Pam McDonald’s social media page and came to the same conclusion that all have, which is that Pam did nothing wrong and broke no laws. Unfortunately, however, the damage has already been done, and our lawsuit will continue. For instance, here’s a screenshot of a TV news story from this morning about my two clients:

Here’s another disgusting media report from WVDM, which was the direct recipient of the leak from the Jefferson County Schools smearing my clients. It announced that my clients “participated in riots in Washington D.C.” Can you imagine, your friendly school bus drivers may have rioted through the Capitol?

In case anyone misunderstood, in the WDVM article above, this was the exact quote:

The statement details that Superintendent Bondy Shay Gibson was made aware on Friday of the staff members’ participation that left the Capitol Building in shambles.

It turns out that no such evidence exists, apparently. But what about the smear letter the superintendent wrote yesterday which was provided to WV Metro News, where she said this:

On Friday, January 8, 2021, I received such a report that two employees had posted threatening and inflammatory posts on their Facebook pages, had been present at the Electoral protest march on Wednesday that erupted in violence, and had violated our leave policy.

Wait, first . . . about the leave policy…. how would one go about reporting whether one of your employees violated your leave policy? Do random people have access to your employee personnel files? Or was this “person” who made the report “a friend” of yours. Sort of like the “friend” prefaced in embarrassing Dear Abby letters? Does this friend happen an office in the school administration building with a sign on the door saying something like, “Superintendent?”

Secondly, about the “threatening and inflammatory posts” my clients supposedly made….. Where are they? I’m sure they were just misplaced….. They must exist, right?

If the goal was to drag these ladies through the mud, merely for their political affiliation and viewpoints, I guess it was a job well-done. They received all sorts of well-wishes from the tolerant and compassionate commenters among us. If only someone saved some sort of record of the ugly comments which were directed at my two innocent clients in the comments section of these defamatory pieces….. That would be a great way, not only to document the ugliness of the situation, but also to hold accountable the nasty individuals behind the keyboards who so recklessly and maliciously love to destroy the lives of their fellow human beings, based only on political disagreement.

It would be a shame if some of them ended up getting sued and held accountable for their online bullying….. Just a thought.

Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Violates First Amendment Rights of Two Employees and We Sue

You may have seen in the national news, and on social media, that the Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools, in Jefferson County, West Virginia, decided to come after school employees who attended the Trump Rally on January 6, 2020. At least two employees, both long-time school bus drivers, who attended the rally, and who never entered any prohibited areas near the Capitol, never witnessed violence, never participated in violence, destruction of property, trespassing, etc., were suspended on January 8, 2020, and remain suspended as of this time.

This afternoon we filed a federal Section 1983 civil rights lawsuit against the Superintendent, individually, for money damages. Here’s the filing:

Here’s a live video filmed just after we filed the lawsuit, going over the Complaint:

Also, I’ll be on the Tom Roton Morning Show Tuesday morning at around 7:30 a.m. It’s always a good discussion on hit show…..

Here’s where the school administrators leaked the false allegations against my clients to the TV News, despite it supposedly being a “personnel matter”:

Here’s an article from the WV Metro News, discussing the letter she released today, at about the same time we filed suit.

And here’s the letter itself, doubling down, essentially:

This is a blatant attack on the core of the First Amendment: the right to assemble and protest in a traditional forum of public speech, such as the U.S. Capitol. These clients did not pass into any prohibited area that day. They committed no crime while in Washington D.C. They’re exercise of free speech had absolutely nothing to do with their employment as school bus drivers for Jefferson County Schools. They just so happened to have a political activist superintendent.

Family Court Judge Searches Home


I just uploaded this yesterday afternoon and it’s already over 12k views on Youtube. Probably because most people can relate with having been before a Family Court judge before, whereas they may not be able to automatically relate to someone involved in the criminal justice process.

This is video footage from our client, Matt Gibson, a federal law enforcement officer who had his home searched by a Family Court judge over a year after his divorce was finalized.  This just happened on March 4, 2020. I’ve never seen anything like this before, so needless to say, I’m still researching the mountain of issues here.

 

This isn’t the first viral video showing a West Virginia Family Court judge on a rampage.  Remember Chip Watkins in good ‘ole Putnam County? Man that guy was something else.

 

The Family Court involved in our video is Raleigh County, West Virginia, Judge Louise Goldston. If you know of this happening in other cases, please let me know as I continue to look into this.

UPDATE 3/11/20: Voicemail received by my client from the opposing attorney the evening prior to the hearing, which he himself scheduled. In the recording he says that the Court asked him to call him to convey a settlement offer (which sounds like he’s admitting to an ex parte communication with the judge, meaning without the other party having the opportunity to participate, which is a big no-no) and he demands $5,000.00 to stop the “hearing” which would take place the next day:

UPDATE 3/13/20: TV news segment:

 

Federal Judge Rules First Amendment Civil Rights Lawsuit against Richard Ojeda will proceed

Today we finally received a ruling in the Woolsey v. Ojeda civil rights lawsuit.  Here is the order we just now received from the federal judge:

Woolsey v. Ojeda, Memorandum Opinion and Order, January 30, 2019

The federal court found that Richard Ojeda was acting under color of law when he went on his Facebook Live tirade against my client, and also that by doing so in response to my client posting a critical video, if true, it was a violation of my client’s First Amendment rights:

In sum, under the facts pled in Plaintiff’s complaint, the totality of the circumstances points to a conclusion that Defendant acted under color of state law in both posting the response video to his official Facebook page and making a phone call to Plaintiff’s employer in an effort to have Plaintiff fired. Defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint on this basis is therefore DENIED.

….

Plaintiff has demonstrated that in response to the video Plaintiff posted, Defendant contacted Plaintiff’s employer in order to pressure the owner to fire Plaintiff. Accordingly, Plaintiff has adequately pled a First Amendment violation, and Defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint on this basis is DENIED.

This is a huge win for the constitutional rights of individual citizens, and is on its way to establish a new benchmark on the application of First Amendment rights to politicians and social media…..