Photojournalism student arrested for photographing a police officer's interaction with a homeless woman
Court/Assoc.: US District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Attorneys/Firms: Molly Tack-Hooper & Mary Catherine Roper (ACLU-PA); John Grogan &Peter Leckman (Langer, Grogan & Diver, P.C.); Jonathan Feinberg (Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, & Feinberg); & Seth Kreimer (University of Pennsylvania Law School)
The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit on June 5, 2013, on behalf of Coulter Loeb, then a photojournalism student at the University of Cincinnati, who was arrested and held for an hour for observing and photographing a police officer's encounter with a homeless woman.
In September 2014, Plaintiff Loeb agreed to dismiss the City of Philadelphia as a defendant. On January 22, 2015, the district court granted Officer Gaspar’s motion for partial summary judgment on Loeb’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 Loeb was arrested for photographing the police. In March 2015, the court held a two-day jury trial on Loeb’s Fourth Amendment claim that Officer Gaspar arrested him without probable cause to believe he had committed any crime. The federal jury found for the defendant.
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