Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed March 20, 2014
People v. Clark 2014 IL 115776
Direct appeal from the circuit court of Kane 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 Kane County, a woman who was represented by an attorney sought child support from this defendant, who proceeded pro se. At 2010 circuit court proceeding in that matter, the defendant recorded courtroom conversations in which he took part with this attorney and the presiding judge. He would later claim that there was no court reporter present nor any other recording device to record the proceedings, and that he needed to preserve the record of his case. Also, in the hallway outside the courtroom, he had a conversation with the plaintiff’s attorney, which he also recorded. No consent of the other parties to the recording of these conversations was obtained.
Clark was later indicted under Illinois’ eavesdropping statute for recording these conversations. He claimed that the section of the statute under which he was charged was unconstitutional as violating his rights under the first amendment and to substantive due process. The circuit court agreed with him and granted his motion to dismiss the indictment, bringing the matter before the Illinois Supreme court in the State’s direct appeal in defense of the legislation.
In this decision, the supreme court issued a first amendment ruling that section (a)(1)(A) of the current eavesdropping statute is unconstitutional as overly broad. Both the State and the defendant agreed that what the legislature wanted to do was protect conversational privacy. Before 1994, the consent of all parties to have their conversation recorded was not required to legitimize a recording if any party lacked an intent to keep the conversation private. In 1994, the legislature changed all that by amending the statute to make clear that no recording can be made absent consent from all parties, regardless of any lack of expectation of privacy. There are certain exceptions. Thus, all conversations are deemed private (and not subject to recording), even if the participants in fact have no privacy expectation. This is overly broad as covering a great deal of wholly innocent conduct and criminalizing the recording of a whole range of conversations that cannot be deemed in any way to be private. This section of the statute goes too far in its effort to protect individuals’ interest in the privacy of their communications.
The circuit court was affirmed.