“Does the First Amendment protect people who film the police?”

Without a Supreme Court decision, the answer’s maybe.

It depends where you are and the circumstances.

Photos are displayed by the prosecution show the appearance of Michael Slager in April, during bond hearing, in Charleston


“This October, former police officer Michael Slager will stand trial for murder in the shooting death of Walter Scott following a daytime traffic stop last year in North Charleston, South Carolina. The critical evidence in the case is a smartphone video captured by a then 23-year-old barber named Feidin Santana as he was walking to work. The video shows Slager shooting the unarmed Scott several times in the back. Santana took the video despite another officer telling him to stop.

“Last month, a federal court in Philadelphia took up the question. District Judge Mark Kearney determined the answer is no – there is no right to film cops, “absent any criticism or challenge to police conduct.” Writing the opinion in Fields v. City of Philadelphia, Kearney reasoned that Pennsylvania “does not recognize a First Amendment right to observe and record without some form of expressive conduct” and that “photographing police is not, as a matter of law, expressive activity.”

“In other words, Kearney is arguing that the act of pushing a record button and then holding a phone up are merely conduct, not speech. This renders the First Amendment irrelevant.

Read this article at The Conversation in its entirety here.

But then consider the Center for Public Integrity ranks Pennsylvania as a C minus state.

Think we don’t need a fully staffed Supreme Court? Now?

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