News services Gannett and the AP have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals Service stemming from an April 7 incident in Hattiesburg, Miss., where two reporters covering a speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had their tape recorders confiscated. The equipment was returned after recordings of Scalia’s speech were erased.
The suit alleges several violations of the constitutional rights of the reporters involved (Gannett’s Antoinette Konz and the AP’s Denise Grones), including the First Amendment right to collect and disseminate news, the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure, and the Fifth Amendment right to due process of law. The suit also alleges violations of the Privacy Protection Act of 1980.
The suit seeks damages of $1,000 and an injunction prohibiting the Marshals Service from taking similar action in the future.
"It is ironic that this seizure took place while Justice Scalia was making a speech about preserving the Constitution," says Gary L. Watson, president of Gannett’s newspaper division. "The justice system must step in and bring these illegal actions to an immediate halt."