Western Watersheds Project v. Michael

June 6, 2018

The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming supporting a group of plaintiffs challenging a pair of state statutes that heighten criminal and civil penalties on an individual who crosses private land without permission to access adjacent or proximate land where he collects resource data, with collection of resource data defined as (1) “to take a sample of material” or “acquire, gather, photograph or otherwise preserve information in any form”; and (2) “recording . . . a legal description or geographical coordinates of the location of the collection.”  Wyo. Stat. §§ 6-3-414(e)(i); 40-27-101(h)(i).  The brief argues that the statutes unconstitutionally burden the First Amendment rights of journalists, and photojournalists in particular.  The brief also points out the practical impact of the statutes on photojournalists, who must often travel to breaking news sites quickly, and the public, who will be deprived of information about breaking news stories if journalists are deterred from covering them for fear of violating the statutes at issue.