Articles Posted in Communications Law

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The City of Chicago, charged defendants, members of the “Occupy Chicago” movement, with violating the Chicago Park District Code, which closes all Chicago public parks between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and prohibits people from being inside any park during these hours. The circuit court of Cook County dismissed the charges, finding the ordinance unconstitutional on its face and as applied to the defendants. The appellate court reversed, holding that the ordinance did not violate the defendants’ First Amendment right to assembly. On remand for review under the state constitution, the appellate court again reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, first holding that the Illinois Constitution of 1970 is to be interpreted and applied in lockstep with the federal precedents interpreting and applying the assembly clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In arguing that the state constitution provided greater protection, the defendants forfeited any claim that the appellate court failed to properly conduct intermediate review under the applicable First Amendment jurisprudence. View "People v. Alexander" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the circuit court adjudicated Minnis a delinquent minor for committing the offense of criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12-15(b) and sentenced him to 12 months’ probation. The adjudication for criminal sexual abuse rendered him a “sex offender” pursuant to the Registration Act (730 ILCS 150/2(A)(5), (B)(1); the court ordered Minnis to register as a sex offender. On December 17, 2010, defendant reported to the Normal police department to register. He disclosed his two e-mail addresses and his Facebook account. Defendant’s May 2011 registration form listed the same Internet information. Defendant registered again in August 2014, including his two e-mail addresses, but omitting his Facebook account. On September 9, Normal police officers viewed defendant’s publicly accessible Facebook profile online; Minnis had changed his Facebook cover photo only one month before his August 2014 registration. The circuit court of McLean County dismissed a charge of failure to register, finding that the Internet disclosure provision was overbroad in violation of the First Amendment. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed and remanded for trial, treating the challenge as one to facial validity. The Internet disclosure provision survives intermediate scrutiny. It advances a substantial governmental interest without chilling more speech than necessary. View "People v. Minnis" on Justia Law

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The Freeport Journal published an online article concerning Hadley’s decision to again seek election to the Stephenson County Board. Online readers could post comments after completing a basic registration. “Fuboy” posted: “Hadley is a Sandusky waiting to be exposed. Check out the view he has [an elementary school] from his front door” and “Anybody know the tale of Hadley’s suicide attempt? ….” Hadley filed a defamation lawsuit against the Journal and its parent company. The company provided Hadley the IP address acquired from Fuboy’s internet service provider, Comcast. The federal court dismissed the suit against as barred by federal statute. Hadley returned to state court with a defamation action against Subscriber Doe a/k/a “Fuboy” and issued a subpoena to Comcast. The circuit court directed Comcast to comply and to notify the subscriber. An attorney moved to quash. The court stated that the better procedure to discover Fuboy’s identity would be Illinois Supreme Court Rule 224, under which Hadley would have the burden of setting forth allegations that would be sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss under Code of Civil Procedure 2-615, even if such a motion was not filed. The court allowed Hadley to add a count, directed at Comcast, seeking relief under Rule 224. The court concluded that count I could withstand a motion to dismiss, so Hadley was entitled to Rule 224 relief. The court found that the comment imputed the commission of a crime to Hadley; was not capable of innocent construction; and could not be considered an opinion. The court directed Comcast to provide identification. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Hadley’s complaint states facts to establish a defamation cause of action sufficient to withstand a section 2-615 motion, so the court properly concluded that necessity was established under Rule 224. View "Hadley v. Subscriber Doe" on Justia Law

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Bridgeview Health Care Center filed a class action complaint against Clark, an Illinois resident who operates Affordable Digital Hearing, a sole proprietorship out of Terre Haute, Indiana. Bridgeview alleged that Clark sent Bridgeview and others unsolicited faxes and claimed violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 47 U.S.C. 227; common law conversion of its fax paper and toner; and violation of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, 815 ILCS 505/2. Clark had a comprehensive general liability policy issued by State Farm, an Illinois corporation. The policy was purchased through an Indiana agent and issued to Clark’s Indiana business address. State Farm sought declaratory judgment that it had no duty to defend in Indiana state court. The action was dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction over Bridgeview. Bridgeview sought a declaration, in Illinois state court that State Farm had a duty to defend and indemnify Clark under the advertising injury and property damage provisions of the policy. State Farm argued that Illinois law conflicts with Indiana law on coverage issues and that Indiana law should apply. The circuit court found that there was no conflict and no need to conduct a choice-of-law analysis. The appellate court reversed, finding that decisions cited by State Farm were sufficient to raise the possibility of a conflict, requiring a choice-of-law analysis The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, finding that State Farm failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that an actual conflict exists between Illinois and Indiana law. View "Bridgeview Health Care Ctr., Ltd. v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co." on Justia Law

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Clark was indicted under 720 ILCS 5/14-2(a)(1)(A) for having used an eavesdropping device to record a conversation between himself and attorney Thomas without her consent and having used a device to record a conversation between himself, Judge Janes, and Thomas while Janes was acting in the performance of official duties, without the consent of either. Defendant stated that he was in court and attorney Thomas was representing the opposing party; there was no court reporter nor was there any recording device, so he made recordings to preserve the record. He claimed he had a first amendment right to gather information by recording officials performing their public duties. The circuit court dismissed, holding that the statute is unconstitutional on substantive due process and first amendment grounds. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, reasoning that if another person overhears what we say, that person may write it down and publish it, but if that same person records our words with a recording device, even if it is not published in any way, a criminal act has been committed. The statute goes too far in its effort to protect individuals’ interest in the privacy of their communications and burdens substantially more speech than necessary to serve interests it may legitimately serve. It does not meet the requirements necessary to satisfy intermediate scrutiny. View "People v. Clark" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with computer tampering in an unrelated case. The docket sheet, the judge’s half sheet, and the court call sheet for the arraignment date indicate that defendant was not in court and that the arraignment did not take place. Defendant’s efforts to have a court reporter change the transcript were unsuccessful. The court reporter referred defendant to her supervisor, Taylor. In a telephone conversation, Taylor explained that any dispute over the accuracy of a transcript should be presented to the judge. Defendant surreptitiously recorded three telephone conversations with Taylor and posted recordings and transcripts of the conversations on her website. Defendant eventually obtained a fraudulent court transcript. Defendant was charged with eavesdropping, (720 ILCS 5/14-2(a)(1), and using or divulging information obtained through the use of an eavesdropping device, 720 ILCS 5/14-2(a)(3). Defendant claimed am exception for “reasonable suspicion that another party to the conversation is committing, is about to commit, or has committed a criminal offense against the person … and there is reason to believe that evidence of the criminal offense may be obtained.” The state argued that the exception did not apply because the reporter accused of creating a forged transcript was not a party to the recorded conversations. After a mistrial, the court found the statute facially unconstitutional and unconstitutional as applied to defendant. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, applying intermediate scrutiny and finding the statutes overbroad as criminalizing a range of innocent conduct. The eavesdropping statute does not distinguish between open and surreptitious recording and burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to serve a legitimate state interest in protecting conversational privacy. The language of the recording statute criminalizes the publication of any recording made on a cellphone or other such device, regardless of consent. View "People v. Melongo" on Justia Law

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Lay, a real estate company, hired a business to send advertising faxes on its behalf by “blast fax,” which sends advertisements to thousands of fax machines cheaply. As a result, Lay became the defendant in a class action filed by Locklear under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The matter settled. A monetary judgment was entered against Lay to be paid only from Lay’s insurance policies. The Act in question provides for $500 in damages for each violation, and, with a putative class of 3,478 in the underlying action, the total damage amount reached $1,737,500, plus costs. Lay’s insurer, Standard, successfully sought a declaration of noncoverage. The appellate court affirmed, reasoning that the damage provision of the Act allows for punitive damages, which are uninsurable under Illinois law as a matter of public policy. The Illinois Supreme Court remanded, reasoning that the Act is a remedial statute, even though it provides for $500 in liquidated damages per violation. The ban on insurability does not apply.View "Standard Mut. Ins. Co. v. Lay" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and defendant, both women, met in 2005 through a chatroom connected with a television series. Defendant, in Illinois, used her own name and aliases to communicate with plaintiff, in Los Angeles. One alias was that of a man, and a romantic relationship developed through the Internet, telephone, and mail. Defendant disguised her female identity using a voice-altering device. Plaintiff purchased airline tickets for a meeting in Denver, but her new “boyfriend” cancelled the plans. Plaintiff was informed that he had attempted suicide. In 2006 the two planned to live together in Colorado, but defendant subsequently informed plaintiff, using another alias, that the man had died of cancer. The deception continued for seven more months until plaintiff’s real friends confronted defendant and obtained a videotaped admission as to what had occurred. Plaintiff’s third amended complaint, alleging fraudulent misrepresentation and seeking damages for the cost of a therapist, lost earnings, and emotional distress, was dismissed. The appellate court affirmed, holding that claims made in the previous complaint, but not incorporated into the third amended complaint, had been abandoned. The supreme court affirmed, holding that a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation does not apply to a personal relationship with no commercial component. View "Bonhomme v. St. James" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, hired as a public school basketball coach in 1999, and made athletic director in 2003, was fired as coach in 2008, following a campaign based on his allegedly abusive and bullying style of coaching. He filed suit for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, civil conspiracy to intentionally interfere with prospective business advantage, and slander per se. The trial court dismissed as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation under the Citizen Participation Act, 735 ILCS 110/15. The appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed. The purpose of the Act is to protect citizens who are attempting to speak freely or petition government from retaliatory meritless lawsuits, intended to chill exercise of constitutional rights and impose burdensome expenses. The special summary dismissal under the Act, without discovery, allows attorney fees. For SLAPP protections to apply, plaintiff's claim must be solely based on the movant's rights of petition, speech, association, or participation in government. The Act is not intended to apply to tortious acts and does not create a new privilege concerning defamation. It is possible that defendants could spread lies about plaintiff while at the same time genuinely petitioning government for redress, but such a situation cannot support dismissal as a SLAPP. View "Sandholm v. Kuecker" on Justia Law

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Based on faxes received in 2002, advertising discount travel, plaintiff filed a class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 47 U.S.C. 227. The trial court denied motions to dismiss, but certified questions to the appellate court. On appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the TCPA forms part of the law enforceable in Illinois courts without the need for the Illinois General Assembly to enact enabling legislation to permit private claims. The appellate court's discussion of the assignability of TCPA claims amounted to an advisory opinion because the amended complaint under discussion alleged that the plaintiff at issue had, itself, received junk faxes from the defendant. The court remanded for consideration of whether the claim is subject to the Illinois two-year limitations period for actions including personal injuries and statutory penalties (735 ILCS 5/13-202) or the four-year limitations period for federal civil actions (28 U.S.C. 1658). View "Italia Foods, Inc. v. Sun Tours, Inc." on Justia Law