Student Newspaper Photographer Cited by Police, Successfully Defended Pro Bono by Reid & Hellyer

October 6, 2011

A student newspaper photographer was cited by police for disobeying the order of a firefighter who asked the photographer to stop photographing a minor medical emergency. Reid & Hellyer successfully defended the student on behalf of the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), as The Press-Enterprise reported.

As the SPLC reported in October 2010, Justin Kenward was in his college newspaper’s newsroom at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, California when he noticed paramedics assisting a man in a nearby parking lot. Kenward grabbed his camera and took pictures of the man being loaded into the ambulance on a stretcher. Kenward reports that the man waved at him as he was taking the pictures and indicated no objection to his picture being taken.

Kenward also recalls that a paramedic told him that he was not permitted to take photos of the man in the ambulance due to doctor-patient confidentiality, though making no such request of the student reporter standing next to Kenward. The student journalist responded by moving back further.

Just a few minutes later, student security guards told him not to take photographs of the incident. After identifying himself as campus press, the student security guards walked away. "I took that as a green light and continued shooting," Kenward stated.

Shortly thereafter, a paramedic arrived with a police officer, who eventually requested that Kenward provide the images. Kenward refused, and reports that the officer threatened to expel him from campus for two weeks if he did not provide the photographs.

Three hours later, the police officer returned to the newsroom and charged Kenward with two misdemeanors - interfering with a firefighter and disobeying the lawful order of a firefighter. (Penal Code section 148.2(1) & (2).)

James-Manning.jpgKenward, aware of his rights as a member of the media, contacted the Student Press Law Center, the nation’s leading advocate for student journalist. In turn, the SPLC contacted Attorney Jim Manning of Reid & Hellyer, APC due to his reputation for First Amendment and media law advocacy in inland Southern California.

“College, for better or worse, is a microcosm of the real world. Members of the media regularly face legal challenges by those who are not aware of their expansive rights,” stated Jim Manning. “We were glad to represent this student journalist on a pro bono basis. He acted well within his rights as a journalist.”

ScottTalkov.jpgJim Manning, assisted by attorney Scott Talkov of Reid & Hellyer and Executive Director Frank LoMonte, Esq. of the SPLC, researched the issues and contacted the police department. The department reported that they were currently conducting an investigation of the incident. The attorneys communicated to the police the important rights held by journalists, including student journalists, as they pertain to the charges against Kenward. Notably, the attorneys pointed out that the order of the firefighter must be lawful, citing Leiserson v. City of San Diego (1986) 184 Cal.App.3d 41.

“After the police realized that the student journalist was represented by counsel and that the law was not on their side, the case just seemed to go away. We never heard back from the police or any prosecutor assigned to the file,” reported attorney Scott Talkov.

Indeed, no prosecution was brought within the one year time to bring such a prosecution, providing closure and an unceremonial victory to Kenward.

See “Lens flare: Photographing law enforcement can create confusion for both police and student journalists.” Student Press Law Center.

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