Matheny v. Allegheny County, et al.

Pittsburgh man arrested for recording police in public

Court/Assoc.: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Attorneys/Firms: Witold Walczak, Sara Rose (ACLU-PA); Glen Downey (Healey & Hornack, P.C.); Seth Kreimer (University of Pennsylvania)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit on August 13, 2009, on behalf of a Pittsburgh man who was arrested by University of Pittsburgh police earlier that year for recording an interaction between police and one of his friends.

Elijah Matheny, a resident of the Hill District, was charged with violating the state wiretapping law, which forbids audio taping without the consent of all parties involved. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that the state's Wiretap Act does not apply to people who audiotape government officials in public settings, where they have no "expectation of privacy."

Although Federal Magistrate Judge Cathy Bissoon dismissed the Pitt police officer from the case, ruling that it was unclear whether recording police officers in a public place is a crime under Pennsylvania law, an October 2010 Third Circuit decision in an unrelated case, Kelly v. Borough of Carlisle, reiterated that recording police officers in the public performance of their duties does not violate the law because the officers do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

In September 2010, Allegheny County and the District Attorney's Office agreed to issue a memo reiterating to district attorneys and local police chiefs that recording police officers performing their duties in public does not violate the Wiretap Act.

The ACLU-PA announced in September 2011 that it had reached a settlement with the University of Pittsburgh.

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