Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

March 26, 2014

Overturned law means more transparency

The Illinois Supreme Court hit the erase button last week on the state’s eavesdropping law.

It was a smart decision on a very bad law.

Millions of Illinoisans now carry cellphones that can be whipped out at a moment’s notice to record just about anything. It’s a world apart from when the state passed its eavesdropping law in 1965.

Back then, tape recorders were about as big as a shoebox and not readily used by the general public.

The ubiquitous nature of recording devices today has landed some folks in trouble when they have taken to recording government officials.

In one case, a woman recorded three telephone conversations with a courthouse supervisor about getting a court transcript corrected. The supervisor apparently was none too happy when the woman posted the conversation on the Internet. And she was prosecuted.

Others have been prosecuted when they have recorded their public interactions with police officers.

And in a Kane County case, a man was prosecuted for recording a conversation between himself, an attorney and a judge.

What do all of these cases have in common?

People in power who don’t want the public to actually hear what they said.

The ubiquity of digital recording devices these days should make government more transparent and more accountable. But not everyone sees it that way.

Fortunately, the state Supreme Court does.

The high court rightly ruled the state’s eavesdropping law is unconstitutional.

If a police officer isn’t saying anything inappropriate in an interaction with a citizen, she should welcome being recorded — it just verifies she is doing a good job.

The same goes for judges, politicians and other government functionaries.

Why not allow ordinary citizens to record their interactions with such people?

Here’s what Chief Justice Rita Garman had to say in her written opinion: “The statute criminalizes the recording of conversations that cannot be deemed private: a loud argument on the street, a political debate on a college quad, yelling fans at an athletic event, or any conversation loud enough that the speakers should expect to be heard by others. None of these examples implicate privacy interests, yet the statute makes it a felony to audio record each one.”

Text Only
Opinion
  • Teachers unions' destructive behavior You can always count on the national teachers unions to behave badly at their annual conventions, and they certainly didn’t let us down this month. In doing so, however, they let down many of their members, along with students who are working hard to

    July 26, 2014

  • Workers of the world, curb your ambitions A group of Democrats introduced legislation this week to protect low-paid shift workers from last-minute changes in their schedules. The idea fits into an intriguing category of economic activism: Not trying to lift low-paid workers out of poverty, n

    July 26, 2014

  • State of the reunion ‘Katy! It’s been so long! How’ve you been?”My God, she’s gained so much weight I didn’t recognize her. It’s a good thing we’re all wearing nametags. I thought it was some distant cousin past due with triplets.“Bob! Long time, no see.”No hair, either.

    July 26, 2014

  • Fear indifference ‘Perhaps the Catholic church would volunteer to pony up some cash for the illegals’ care then? Hmm?”“Pope should stay out of it. Matter of civil laws, not church laws.”“Thinking that the pope should want the illegals to go to Argentina to get better

    July 25, 2014

  • A push for felon voting rights If advocates have their way, voting rights could be a new reality for the nation’s incarcerated.Full voting rights for felons is as hot a topic in Washington as voting rights in reverse pushed by voter-ID-tickled Republicans. But with new legislation

    July 25, 2014

  • Big insurers need better oversight Could Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. threaten the stability of the financial system? The U.S.’s top regulators are asking themselves this question as they consider whether Berkshire and other large insurers should come under Federal Reserve

    July 25, 2014

  • Questions for Obamacare after the ruling Tuesday, I outlined what we knew about Halbig v. Burwell, the case in which a federal appellate court ruled that subsidies for purchasing insurance under Obamacare can only be made available on marketplaces established by states. Now I propose to out

    July 24, 2014

  • Pensions not the problem I see in last night’s Register-News paper that James Rippy has attempted to enlighten us on pensions in Illinois. I also notice he has written so often he no longer has the title “guest columnist.” It is obvious he has the time and energy to work on

    July 24, 2014

  • Impasse threatens border solution After more than a year of contentious debate, could Congress be any more divided over the issue of immigration? The answer is yes.In the House, positions are hardening over what to do about the tens of thousands of families and unaccompanied young im

    July 24, 2014

  • Take a lesson from Texas I like to eat at blue-collar diners and cafes, particularly when I’m on vacation.It’s a chance to step beyond the homogenized national chains and experience a bit of local flavor.And being a reporter, I like to chat up local folks to find out a bit a

    July 23, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks