Illinois Eavesdropping Statute Unconstitutional/Potential Impact on School Districts

By April 15, 2014 News No Comments

On March 20th, the Illinois Supreme Court, in People v. Melongo, found the eavesdropping statute unconstitutional. The case arose from a defendant in a criminal proceeding who obtained a transcript of a court proceeding which she believed contained false information related to her.

Until the Court’s ruling, it was a criminal act to commit “eavesdropping.” Under the law, eavesdropping in Illinois was defined as (1) knowingly and intentionally using an eavesdropping device to hear or record any part of a conversation without the consent of all of the parties involved in the communication (“Recording Provision”), and (2) using or divulging any information which the person knew or should have known was obtained through the use of an eavesdropping device (“Publishing Provision”).

Subsequently, in order to clarify the transcript that she believed contained false information, the Plaintiff recorded three conversations with the court reporter’s supervisor without the supervisor’s permission. The woman then published the recordings with the supervisor on her website.

She was charged with three counts of eavesdropping and three counts of publishing information obtained through the use of an eavesdropping device. The circuit court later found the statute unconstitutional and the case went on to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court held both provisions of the statute unconstitutional.

Tape recordings of conversations arise in a variety of contexts in the school environment but most commonly in terms of parents tape recording (either openly or not) student IEP meetings. Generally, school districts can no longer rely on the eavesdropping statute as a basis for not allowing a parent to record a meeting or other conversation with school personnel.

School districts will continue to face issues around recordings of meetings or other school activities. Please contact Bennett Rodick or Michelle Todd with your eavesdropping law inquiries. To read the full text of the Court’s opinion, click:  http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2014/114852.pdf

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