On October 27, 2011, three photographers and the National Photographers' Rights Organization filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California under 42 USC § 1983, the California Constitution, Article 1, § 2, and California Civil Code § 52.1 against the County of Los Angeles. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU, asked the court for declaratory judgment that the defendant's actions and policies violate the U.S. Constitution, for an injunction to prevent further detention and search of photographers in the county of Los Angeles, monetary damages, and attorneys' fees.
The complaint alleged that the defendants unfairly stopped, detained, and searched photographers solely because they were taking photos in public places. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that they had been taking photographs of subway terminals, police officers, industrial refineries, among other subjects from public sidewalks when County of Los Angeles police officers stopped them, asked them what they were doing, searched their bags and the contents of their cameras, and in some circumstances handcuffed them.
The complaint alleged that the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD) instituted a terrorism prevention policy, which required officers to report "suspicious activities." Furthermore, it was alleged that the definitions and examples of such activities included the photographing of public buildings or infrastructure. Therefore, the complaint alleged that as a result of said program, the plaintiffs were harassed when they were taking photos of various public buildings.
One plaintiff photographer claimed that he had stopped to take photos of the turnstiles of the LA Metro when a police officer saw him and questioned what he was doing. He claimed that when he denied wrongdoing, the officer denied his right to take photos in the metro and then placed him in handcuffs against a wall. Meanwhile, the photographer claimed that the officer searched the contents of his pockets and ran his license all without his permission.
The same photographer claimed that on another day while he was taking photos of an incident near the Hollywood Star Walk, he was asked to move a full block away from the incident solely on account of his photography, even though no one else was asked to move further away. The officer said in justifying his request that the police did not permit photography between the metro and the large hotel across the street.
A third incident occurred when, at the entrance to another metro station, a photographer began taking photos of two police officers talking to two young women. The photographer claimed that he was told he could not take such photos because the women were underage and that the officers then proceeded to place him in handcuffs, search his pockets, bag, and person, and place him in the back seat of their car for twenty five minutes of questioning before letting him go without a citation.
Another photographer claimed that when he was taking photos of drivers at an intersection across the street from the Long Beach Superior Court that several LAPD officers approached him and asked him what he was doing. He claimed that they then proceeded to frisk him, look through the contents of his camera, and question him for a period of about twenty minutes, because according to his complaint the officers thought his behavior was "suspicious." He was released without a citation.
The photographers complained about several other similar occurrences, including stops when photographers were taking photos at night of the LA refineries, the LA County Central Men's Jail, and various metro platforms and entrances.
On October 11, 2013, Judge Dean D. Pregerson ordered a stay of the case pending approval of a mediator's proposal or the conclusion of a settlement agreement.
On January 22, 2014, Judge Pregerson removed the case from active caseload.
Any settlement agreement was not announced publicly. Nick Kabat - 03/31/2014