The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and co-counsel filed a federal lawsuit on January 16, 2013, on behalf of Christopher Montgomery, a Philadelphia resident who was arrested for using his cellphone to record an arrest. The police also erased the video he had made. This is the first in a series of lawsuits arguing that Philadelphia police officers routinely manufacture criminal charges to retaliate against individuals who observe or record police activity.
In September 2014, Mr. Montgomery agreed to dismiss the city of Philadelphia as a defendant. On January 22, 2015, the district court granted Officer Killingsworth’s motion for partial summary judgment on Mr. Montgomery’s First Amendment retaliation claim. The court acknowledged that there is a "growing trend" of courts across the country recognizing that the First Amendment protects the right to record police officers performing their duties in public, but ruled that, in the Third Circuit, that right wasn't "clearly established" back in 2011 when Mr. Montgomery were arrested for videotaping the police. In May 2015, the case settled.
This lawsuit is part of a series aimed at stopping Philadelphia police officers' unlawful practice of arresting citizens in retaliation for observing the police performing their duties. To learn more about other police practice cases, visit aclupa.org/copwatch