Illinois Supreme Court hears case over woman's jailing for recording public official

Michael Rooney | Privacy | News | January 14, 2014

Today, the Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that again challenges the constitutionality of the state’s eavesdropping statute. The statute outlaws the creation of audio or visual recordings of people without the consent of all parties to the recording.

The case involves Annabel Melongo, who was charged with six counts under the statute stemming from recordings made of phone conversations between herself and the Cook County court reporter’s office in December 2009. A lower court dismissed the charges against Melongo, but not before she spent 20 months in jail because she could not post bail. The state is now appealing the ruling.

In oral arguments, State's Attorney Alan Spellberg conceded that the current eavesdropping statute needed to be updated in light of technological advancement but that it was the job of the legislature to do so, according to Courthouse News Service.

Defense attorney Gabriel Plotkin argued both that the statute was unconstitutional as overly broad and that public officials do not enjoy the same level of privacy as do private citizens.

“Public officials acting in their official capacity don't have the same right to privacy, and this was calling an official about public duties." Plotkin reportedly said.

This case comes less than two years after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the statute was unconstitutional in prohibiting the audible recording of police officers in Alvarez v. ACLU. This case explores whether the right to record extends to conversations with public officials, not just police officers.