A plaintiff who snuck a cellphone into the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan and recorded his two-day trial has been sanctioned. Pro se plaintiff Anibal Oritz was held in contempt by Southern District Judge Jesse Furman (See Profile) and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for breaking the rules on recording devices and for defying the court.
Ortiz claimed he was mistreated by two police officers on Oct. 17, 2010, on Third Avenue, when he says the officers searched him without probable cause, seized his cellphone while he was recording the encounter and slammed him into the window of a building.
But a jury rejected his claims on Nov. 21. Then, on Nov. 23, Ortiz sent Assistant Corporation Counsel Richard Weingarten a letter saying he was already working on his appeal and “I’m using the audio I recorded of the 2 days, audio I will also include when I submit my appeal.”
Three days later, Furman ordered Ortiz to show cause why he shouldn’t be sanctioned for violating Local Rule 1.8, which forbids anyone from bringing a camera, cellphone or other recording device into the courthouse without approval of the judge.
Ortiz had challenged the rule in June 12, 2012, as a violation of his First Amendment “right to record public servants in the course of their duty in a public space,” but that argument was swiftly rejected by Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein (See Profile) on referral from Furman, with Gorenstein writing there is “no constitutional right to bring a recording device into a courthouse.”
In addition to the $1,000 fine, Furman barred Ortiz from using any recording he made as part of his appeal.