Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed March 20, 2014

 

 

 

People v. Melongo 2014 IL 114852

 

 

Direct appeal from the circuit court of Cook County.

 

 

††††† CHIEF JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

††††† Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

 

In the circuit court of Cook County, this defendant was charged with computer tampering in 2008. An arraignment was set for June 18 of that year, but the docket sheet, the judgeís half sheet, and the court call sheet for that date indicate that the defendant was not in court and that the arraignment did not take place.

The defendant later obtained an official court transcript of the June 18, 2008, proceeding and found that it stated that she was present and arraigned on that date. Her efforts to have the court reporter change the transcript were unsuccessful, and she was referred to the assistant administrator of the court reporterís office, who told her that the matter had to be presented to the judge. Melongo would later argue that she had a reasonable suspicion that a fraud had been committed by the court reporterís office. In three subsequent telephone conversations with the assistant administrator, the defendant surreptitiously recorded those conversations and posted the recordings and transcripts on her website. She was subsequently charged with eavesdropping and divulging information obtained through eavesdropping. Those charges, and the validity of the statute under which they were brought, are at issue here.

At Melongoís trial on the eavesdropping charges, a mistrial was declared, and the case was reassigned to a different judge.

Melongo subsequently filed a motion before the new judge to have the statute declared unconstitutional on first amendment and due process grounds. In ruling on that motion, the circuit court looked to A.C.L.U. v. Alvarez, 679 F.3d 583 (7th Cir. 2012), from the Seventh Circuit. That federal ruling had found that the plaintiff in that case had a strong likelihood of success in a first amendment claim that the Illinois eavesdropping statute was unconstitutional as applied to a plan to record police officers performing their duties in public places. In ruling in this case, the circuit court found the eavesdropping statute unconstitutional both facially and as applied. This direct appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court followed.

In this decision, the supreme court said that its analysis was guided by its holding in People v. Clark, 2014 IL 115776, announced on the same day as this case, in which the court held the eavesdropping statute violative of the first amendment to the United States Constitution under the overbreadth doctrine. Here, the supreme court said again that the statute is simply too broad in deeming all conversations to be private and not subject to recording absent consent, even if the participants have no expectation of privacy, and in also criminalizing the publication of those recordings. All of this burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to serve any legitimate interest in protecting conversational privacy, making the statute invalid on its face. This defendant cannot constitutionally be prosecuted for divulging the conversations she recorded.

The circuit court was affirmed.