First Amendment Right to Record Child-Protection Visit to Your Home
From yesterday’s Pennsylvania appellate decision in In re Y.W.-B., by Judge Carolyn Nichols, joined by Judges Mary Murray and James Gardner Colins:
Mother and Father are the parents of Y.W.-B., born in June 2012, and N.W.-B., born in January 2015 (collectively, Children). On May 31, 2019, DHS filed the instant petitions to compel Mother’s cooperation with a home visit.
In its petitions, DHS [Department of Human Services] alleged, in part, that on May 22, 2019, it received a … report … that three weeks earlier, the family slept outside a Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) office, and that on May 21, 2019, Mother was outside the PHA office from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. with a child. The petitions further stated that Mother told a Project Home outreach worker that she was not homeless, but that her previous residence was burned down. According to the petition, it was “unknown if [Mother] was feeding [Children while] she stood outside of the PHA office for extended periods of time.” According to the petitions to compel, DHS workers attempted to assess the family’s home on the same day it received the GPS report, but Mother and Father refused them entry to the home or access to Children.
The appellate court held that “DHS presented the trial court with probable cause to search Mother’s home in support of its petitions to compel cooperation,” but vacated a trial court order that “Mother is NOT to record or video” the visit. The court quoted Fields v. City of Philadephia (3d Cir. 2017), which had said:
The First Amendment protects the public’s right of access to information about their officials’ public activities. It goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw. Access to information regarding public police activity is particularly important because it leads to citizen discourse on public issues, the highest rung of the hierarchy of the First Amendment values, and is entitled to special protection. That information
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