The web site Copyrights and Campaigns has an analysis of the prospects for the recent lawsuit filed by ACORN and two former employees against the two young filmmakers who videotaped employees of the group dispensing advice to a fake pimp and prostitute, as well as against Big Government, the blog that publicized the videos. The suit, which seeks monetary damages and an injunction against further broadcast of the videos, alleges that the filmmakers violated Maryland's law against surreptitious audio recording. It's unlikely, says C&C, that the suit will succeed.
Here's the nut of ACORN's problem:
Maryland's statute requires consent from all parties to record -- which the defendants clearly appear to have lacked. But, crucially, courts have interpreted the statute to apply only where the plaintiffs have a reasonable expectation of privacy ("REP") .... While the law in Maryland itself is scant, and the question is not entirely free of doubt, I think it unlikely that a Maryland court would find that ACORN and its employees had a REP in the circumstances here. Thompson and Williams (the ACORN employees)were speaking with complete strangers they had just met. They were meeting in an office open to any customer who happened to wander in off the street. Though the meeting itself appears to have occurred in a conference room, the door was open. And it appears likely that their voices could be heard outside the room; after all, in the video, we can hear children's voices carrying into the room where the recording occurred.
This is pretty ironic. ACORN employees are caught engaging in disreputable if not illegal behavior, and so ACORN sues the people who caught them doing it. That's like the burglar suing the homeowner because the homeowner shined a light in his face causing him to trip down the stairs and break his leg. To make it worse there are reports (though I don't vouch for their accuracy) that the left is scouring the internet trying to dig up dirt on the girl who played the role of the prostitute in the sting. It's not clear what, other than giving vent to their vindictiveness, they would hope to accomplish by destroying her reputation. Perhaps they simply wish to intimidate anyone who might be inclined to shine a bright light on the inner machinations of other left-wing organizations in this country.
The lawsuit may actually blow up in ACORN's face, however, since they may be forced in discovery to reveal exhaustive information about their operation. Wouldn't that be interesting.RLC