City of Boston pays $170,000 to settle landmark case involving man arrested for recording police with cell phone

Simon Glik, a Boston attorney wrongly arrested and prosecuted for using his cell phone to record police officers forcefully arresting a man on the Boston Common, has reached a settlement with the City of Boston on his civil rights claims. The settlement requires the City to pay Glik $170,000 for his damages and legal fees.

Mr. Glik was forced to defend himself against criminal charges of illegal wiretapping, aiding the escape of a prisoner, and disturbing the peace. After a judge threw out those charges, Glik filed a civil rights suit against the city and the arresting officers in federal court in Boston, aided by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and Boston attorneys Howard Friedman and David Milton. This settlement resolves that case.

The settlement follows a landmark ruling last August by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, declaring that the First Amendment protects the right to record police carrying out their duties in a public place, Glik v. Cunniffe 655 F.3d 78 (2011). The First Circuit's ruling is binding only in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico, but its persuasive reasoning has been cited by courts and lawyers nationwide facing the recurrent issue of police arresting people for filming them.

The Massachusetts wiretap statute prohibits only secret recording of audio. The First Circuit in Glik's case affirmed that an arrest under the statute for openly recording the police would violate not only the First Amendment right to gather information but also the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against false arrests.

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Boston settles police brutality case for $1.4 million

The city of Boston paid $1.4 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit against our firm brought on behalf of Mike O’Brien, a victim of police brutality. In addition, one of the police officers sued, Officer David Williams, was fired for using unreasonable force on our client and then lying about his use of excessive force. (Williams was fired years earlier for participating in the police beating of a plainclothes officer who was mistaken for a murder suspect in 1995. He won his job back after an arbitration.) Check out this Boston Globe article about the settlement.

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Good Cop, Bad Citizen? As Cellphone Recording Increases, Officers Are Uneasy

Check out this article in the ABA Journal.

The article discusses several pending court cases that address the issue of people recording officers with their cell phones. Our firm is handling the case Glik v. Cunniffe, which went to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in August 2011. The First Circuit ruled that the officers violated Glik’s clearly established constitutional right to record police performing their duties in public.

The ABA Journal article quotes attorney David Milton: “What is so good about the 1st Circuit decision in Glik is that the judges recognized that even though there may not be a prior case of a police officer in a park with a person on a cellphone, basic long-standing First Amendment principles clearly apply to the situation even though it involves new technology.”


South Hadley free speech case settles for $75,000

Luke Gelinas settled his federal civil rights suit against Ed Boisselle, the former chair of the South Hadley School Committee, alleging Boisselle violated Gelinas’s constitutional rights under the First Amendment. Gelinas was told to stop speaking as he said it was time to hold adults responsible for the tragic death of Phoebe Prince. The case settled for $75,000. Payment has just been received. The case is Gelinas v. Boisselle, et al., C.A. No. 10-30192-KPN, in the United States District Court in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The summary judgment opinion can be found here.

Read an article about this case on


Filming the police

You have the right to videotape the police and other public officials while they’re on the job. 

In our lawsuit Glik v. Cunniffe, the First Circuit Court of Appeals said that videotaping public officials "serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs.… This is particularly true of law enforcement officials, who are granted substantial discretion that may be misused to deprive individuals of their liberties." (Click here to read the decision.)

Check out these two videos designed to educate people about their right to film the police.

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Chicopee jailers violate female inmates' civil rights by allowing male guards to videotape strip searches

Check out this article in the Valley Advocate about our class action lawsuit against the Western Massachusetts Regional Women's Correctional Center in Chicopee.

The firm filed this lawsuit in September 2011, alleging that since the facility opened in 2007, male correctional officers have been routinely videotaping female inmates’ naked bodies while the women are strip searched. The lawsuit alleges that this practice is degrading and unconstitutional. Read more here.


Lowell police detective with history of aggressive behavior is sued for excessive force

On January 30, 2012, the firm filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging that Lowell police detective Stephen Ciavola used excessive and unreasonable force against our client Cindy Thach. Check out this article in the Lowell Sun or read about the case below.

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Boston police officer fired for excessive force and lying

Boston police officer David Williams was fired for using unreasonable force on our client Michael O’Brien, and for lying about his use of excessive force. This is a rare example of a police department finding a police officer guilty of brutality and terminating him for abuse of a civilian.

Read more in The Boston Globe.


State Police reforms suggested after arrests of multiple troopers


Glik v. Cunniffe in the news

Yesterday, the Boston Globe published an article about Glik v. Cunniffe, a case this firm is handling: Decision reversed on taping of police; Bystander found to be within rights, Internal Affairs says officers were in error. This case is also the subject of an editorial published in the Globe today, Police and cameras: Get used to it.


Lawsuit filed, alleging Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) violates free speech

Today this office filed a lawsuit in federal court along with co-counsel Alexander Reinert and attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.

Blum v. Holder is a federal lawsuit challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech. The plaintiffs are five longtime animal rights activists whose advocacy work has been chilled due to fear of being prosecuted as a terrorist under the AETA. Read more about the plaintiffs and the lawsuit on the website of the Center for Constitutional Rights.


To Protect and Serve?

Howard Friedman wrote an article titled "To Protect and Serve?" for the December 2011 issue of Trial magazine. You can view the article by clicking here.

Or, expand this post to read the text of the article.

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News media favors police

Check out this article in the Huffington Post discussing how the media are biased in favor of the police. The article states that media often describes police brutality as a “clash” between police and protesters, but “these are not conflicts between rivals of equal proportion, as ‘clash’ connotes. These are incidents of police violence and media should start calling it for what it is. With so much amateur video, the media has little choice but to set aside convention and report what's happening.”


Lawsuit Alleges Boston Police Falsely Arrested and Beat Teenager for Recording Officers with his Cell Phone

The firm filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of Maury Paulino, alleging that four Boston police officers falsely arrested him and used brutality against him because he recorded the officers’ activity with his cell phone. The lawsuit states that although Mr. Paulino’s recording was legal, the officers punched, kneed, and pepper-sprayed him in the face, then charged him with violating the wiretapping statute.

On November 18, 2009, Mr. Paulino (19 at the time) was outside the B2 station after bailing out a friend. Mr. Paulino saw officers mistreating his friend, so he began to record the incident with his phone. Mr. Paulino did not interfere with the officers’ actions, but the officers decided to arrest him and brought him to the ground. Officer Seth Richard punched Mr. Paulino in the face three times, kneed him in the face, and sprayed him with pepper spray. Officers Nicolas Onishuk, Richard Davis and James Moore assisted or stood by without preventing this unreasonable force.

The officers brought criminal charges against Mr. Paulino, including the charge of violating the Massachusetts wiretapping statute. He was found not guilty at trial. In another recent lawsuit, Glik v. Cunniffe, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that the First Amendment protects the right to record police officers in public spaces performing their official duties. Since Boston police officers should have known that it is unlawful to arrest people for recording police performing their official duties in public, Mr. Paulino’s lawsuit also includes a claim against the City of Boston for failing to supervise and discipline officers for their pattern of unlawful arrests.

“I was recording the police officers to make sure they didn’t hurt my friend. I didn’t expect the police officers would arrest and hit me for recording them,” says Mr. Paulino.

Click here to see a copy of Mr. Paulino’s complaint.

Here is the video that Mr. Paulino recorded shortly before his own arrest.

Here is a news story about Mr. Paulino's case:


First Circuit Affirms the Right to Record the Police in Public

Imagine you are strolling through the Boston Common and you see three Boston police officers using force to arrest a young man on a park bench. Someone shouts, “You’re hurting him!” You think this looks like police brutality. Do you pause to watch? Do you perhaps take out your cell phone and begin recording the arrest from a safe distance? Even if you would rather walk on by, would you be at all surprised if other bystanders pulled out their cell phones to videotape the event?

This is exactly what attorney Simon Glik did on October 1, 2007. And as August’s decision from the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, it is perfectly legal. When an officer asked Mr. Glik to stop taking pictures, Mr. Glik responded, “I am recording this. I saw you punch him.” The officers then handcuffed Mr. Glik and arrested him for illegal wiretapping (a felony), aiding the escape of a prisoner, and disturbing the peace. The charges were eventually dismissed.

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Court Finds that Evidence Supports Claim that South Hadley Resident’s First Amendment Rights were Violated

Last year, South Hadley resident Luke Gelinas filed a federal civil lawsuit alleging that his First Amendment rights were violated when Chairperson Edward Boisselle removed him from a public meeting for criticizing the school’s handling of the Phoebe Prince case. On October 18, 2011, the Court issued a memorandum denying the defense motion for summary judgment and stating that Gelinas "has presented sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that Boisselle prevented him from speaking solely on the basis of his viewpoint, thereby violating his First Amendment rights."

During the public comment period of the school committee meeting on April 14, 2010, Gelinas was speaking from a prepared statement. Gelinas began to say that it was time for school officials, including Boisselle, to be held responsible for their role in the death of Phoebe Prince. Before he could finish, Boisselle ordered Gelinas to stop speaking and sit down. Gelinas was eventually escorted out of the meeting by police officers.

The defendants in this case, Boisselle and the two police officers, filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a ruling that there was no question that Boisselle removed Gelinas from the meeting for valid, viewpoint-neutral reasons.

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Resisting arrest

Check out this great editorial in the New York Times. The author discusses one man’s story, revealing how easily police officers can abuse the charge of resisting arrest. The article notes, “Civil rights lawyers have long complained about trumped-up arrests of mainly minority citizens who are dragged into the criminal justice system.”


Public access to police disciplinary records

An article in the Cape Cod Times discusses the law in Massachusetts that allows public access to police departments' disciplinary records. The article quotes Attorney Howard Friedman and notes that our firm "has handled many high-profile cases involving alleged violations of civil rights by police."


Women bring class action lawsuit for practice of male guards' viewing and videotaping strip searches of female inmates

On September 15, 2011, the firm filed a class action lawsuit in federal court on behalf of two former inmates at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center (“Chicopee Jail”), alleging that since the Jail opened in 2007, male correctional officers have been routinely videotaping female inmates’ naked bodies while the women are strip searched. The lawsuit alleges that this practice is degrading and unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs Debra Baggett and April Marlborough filed suit on behalf of the hundreds of women affected by the practice against Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe, Jr. and Assistant Superintendent Patricia Murphy. They designed and implemented the Jail’s strip search policy and they permitted males to routinely view and videotape naked female inmates. When women are moved to the Segregation Unit for mental health or disciplinary reasons, they are strip searched. With four or more officers present, the inmate must: take off all her clothes, lift her breasts and, if large, her stomach, turn around, bend over, spread her buttocks with her hands and cough, and stand up and face the wall. If the woman is menstruating, she must remove her tampon or pad and hand it to a guard. An officer with a video camera stands a few feet away and records the entire strip search. This officer is almost always male.

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Justice in New Orleans

Five current and former New Orleans police officers were convicted on August 5, 2011, of civil rights violations for unlawfully shooting and killing two people, wounding four other people, then covering up their conduct by bringing false criminal charges and lying to the FBI. Four of the officers shot at unarmed innocent people on the Danziger Bridge in September of 2005, five days after the horror of Katrina. The fifth officer helped them cover up their conduct, rewriting reports to explain why the victims had no weapons. Six years later, they have been held accountable for their conduct. This result was not certain; these officers almost got away with their crimes.

In September 2007, I was in New Orleans. My friend Mary Howell, a civil rights lawyer there, invited me to watch a motion in the state murder prosecution against four New Orleans police officers for their conduct on the Danziger Bridge that day. A young state prosecutor was arguing a motion. The police officers were free on bail, sitting in sport jackets with their criminal defense lawyers. The officers were leaning back in their chairs and laughing. That’s right, police officers charged with murder were laughing in court. The judge had to remind them that they were facing serious charges and laughing was not appropriate.

The police officers had reason to laugh; everyone in the courtroom knew that they would not be convicted in that Louisiana state court. It was not a surprise when in August 2008, a state court judge dismissed the murder charges. The case was dismissed because the prosecution had improperly disclosed grand jury testimony. The officers were free from charges for almost two years, then, in July 2010, they were indicted in federal court by lawyers from the Justice Department’s civil rights division.      

In September 2010, I was back in New Orleans and the officers were back in court facing criminal charges.

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