Reporters Seek to Enjoin Courthouse Video Rules

     JACKSONVILLE (CN) – A judge in Duval County, Fla., violated the constitutional rights of a pair of journalists by issuing an administrative order criminalizing videotaping on courthouse grounds, the reporters claim.
     Plaintiffs Thomas James Covenant and Jeffrey Marcus Gray are affiliated with Photography Is Not a Crime, an organization that reports on police interactions with citizens.
     Covenant and Gray ‘s July 7 complaint against Mark Harrison Mahon, chief judge of the Fourth Judicial Circuit in Florida, and Jacksonville­ Sheriff Mike Williams, seeks to enjoin them from enforcing AO 2015-3.
     The order, which was issued by Mahon a week earlier, criminalizes “[t]he videotaping of secure locations on the Duval County Courthouse grounds, such as the judges’ secure parking garages … the State Attorney’s Office garage … and the Sally Port, and all security features of the Duval County Courthouse.”
     According to the complaint, anyone who violates the order will be found in contempt of court and arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
     The order also states that it “shall not, in any way, be construed as superseding or contradicting any of the provisions of the Second Amended Administrative Order No. 2013-17, establishing the policies and location of peaceful demonstrators.”
     The plaintiffs contend the AO 2015-3 and SAAO 2013-17 are “irreconcilable” because the latter is a “content-neutral regulation of the time, place, and manner of speech on the grounds of the Duval County Courthouse, whereas AO 2015-3 is a content-based, viewpoint-based prohibition of speech and other admittedly ‘expressive conduct.'”
     Covenant and Gray say they “have been protesting, demonstrating, and otherwise engaging in core political speech and other expressive conduct on and in the vicinity of the Duval County Courthouse grounds. This expressive conduct has, at times, consisted of criticisms of judges, police officers, and other public officials.”
     “Plaintiffs and other PINAC-affiliated journalists have also been engaging in their usual video-journalism on and in the vicinity of the Duval County Courthouse grounds,” the complaint says.
     On July 2, the plaintiffs say they were “engaging in video journalism” on the west side of Broad Street, which is across the street from the Duval County Courthouse when they were approached by a Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer, who issued them a cease and desist notice. They posted a video of the incident on YouTube.

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