District Files Motion to Dismiss ACLU Suit Over Georgetown Incident
A suit filed in June alleges that police officers violated a photographer's First Amendment rights
Jerome Vorus of Alexandria is suing the District of Columbia and several MPD Officers for violating his rights under the Constitution of the United States and the law of the District of Columbia. The District, after requesting several extensions, responded with a motion to dismiss filed Aug. 22 in which it called the officers' actions a "limited investigatory stop" based on reasonable assumptions.
According to court documents, on July 3, 2010 Vorus was standing on a public sidewalk in Georgetown taking photos of a traffic stop. When officers asked him for indentification, Vorus asked if he was being detained, he was eventually told he was free to go.
Vorus continued making an audio recording while he was being detained and was told by four different MPD officers that it was illegal to take photos or record officers without their consent. It is not illegal to do so.
The plaintiff is seeking damages for police misconduct and alleges that his First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated and that he was subject to false arrest and false imprisonment under District law.
In the motion filed Monday, the District argued the Vorus has failed to plead a violation of any right protected by the First Amendment.
"Officer Wishnick is entitled to qualified immunity for the limited investigatory stop she conducted, under the reasonable (even if mistaken) belief that Plaintiff could be engaged in unlawful activity. Thus, the Court should find that Officer Wishnick is immune from Plaintiff’s constitutional claims against her."
The District also argues that the plaintiff 's photographs and video did not constitute expression. "Plaintiff has only alleged that he informed the officers that 'he wanted to have some pictures of a traffic stop for his photo collection.' He never indicated to the officers an intent to disseminate or publish the photographs in any way."
The defendants write that they have not identified any case law that "clearly establishes a constitutional protection for the narrow right that Plaintiff claims here: the right to capture images and video of public servants in public places for personal use."
The District similarly denies any Fourth Amendment violations and requests that the court not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any remaining state law claims.
The case is still pending.