An recent court order banning photography outside the Arizona Supreme Court in Phoenix and Court of Appeals in Tucson is being criticized as unconstitutional. The court says the order is meant to stop “abuse and intimidation,” but critics say it infringes on people’s First Amendment rights and puts photojournalists in an “untenable position.”
As reported by local radio station KJZZ, the order was handed down by Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel on October 16th, and it prohibits any kind of “video recording, photography or live broadcasting” around the two buildings. This includes the buildings’ entrances, the steps out front, adjacent parking areas, and even the sidewalks leading to both courthouses.
Anyone who would like to take pictures, record video, or livestream from these locations must first get written permission from the court and the consent of those being photographed. If they don’t, court staff or security officers can confront the offending party and “direct the person to immediately stop and delete the recording.”
If the photographer refuses to comply, the court staff are directed to call law enforcement.
Court spokesman Aaron Nash tells KJZZ that the order is meant to stop abuse, intimidation, and blocking of the entrance to the courthouse. But as attorney Dan Barr explained, preventing people from taking pictures is totally unrelated to blocking the entrance. Protesters are still allowed to stand on the steps and hold signs, so why should it be any different if they’re holding a camera?
“It’s unconstitutional,” says Barr. “You put photographers in this untenable position of wondering whether they’re violating that court order in doing a routine part of their job.”
What he seems to be implying is that the order is actually aimed at the media that has been documenting protests that take place on the courthouse steps. This is especially true, says Barr, when it comes to preventing photography on the sidewalks surrounding the courthouses: a “traditional public forum” protected by “a long stretch of constitutional law by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Nash denied any ill intent on behalf of the court, but intent may be irrelevant. Especially where the sidewalks are concerned, Barr says the court order, as worded, has crossed a constitutional line.
Image credits: Photo by David Pinter, CC BY 3.0.