Supreme Court Declines to Hear Project Veritas Case Against Massachusetts Recording Law

James O'Keefe

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas from lower court decisions rejecting a challenge to a Massachusetts law that prevents anyone except law enforcement officers from conducting secret recordings.

According to its petition for certiorari (i.e. its appeal to the Supreme Court), Project Veritas challenged a ruling against it by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, noting that the law conflicted with rulings in other circuits that such laws were “facially overbroad under the First Amendment,” i.e. that they were so broad that they interfered with freedom of the press.

Project Veritas had not actually broken the law, but wanted the law thrown out so that it could conduct its trademark brand of undercover journalism in the state. Accordingly, it asked the Supreme Court to rule against the First Circuit’s holding that Project Veritas would have to describe “every type of contemplated speech activity” that might fall afoul of the law in order for the case to be “ripe” — i.e. for it to reach the stage where it would be appropriate for the courts to intervene on its behalf.

In its decision, the First Circuit had overruled judgments both for and against Project Veritas in the lower, district court. The district court had agreed with Project Veritas that the law should not apply to recordings made of government officials in “public spaces.”But the First Circuit held that the courts lacked “subject matter jurisdiction” to hear the case at this time. It remanded the case to the district court to be dismissed — but without prejudice, meaning that it could be filed again later.

An amicus brief filed by Gene C. Schaerr argued that the Massachusetts law infringed on the First Amendment and made a criminal offense out of behavior that, in our era of smartphones, has become so commonplace as to be almost unremarkable.

These cases are separate from Project Veritas’s attempt to stop the Department of Justice from using materials seized in a bizarre raid on O’Keefe’s New York home, and its defamation lawsuit against the New York Times in a New York court.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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