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Court Quashes Search Warrant, Orders UCPD To Return Indybay Journalist’s News Photographs
For Immediate Release June 21, 2010
Contact: David Greene, Geoffrey King, First Amendment Project 510.208.7744
COURT QUASHES SEARCH WARRANT, ORDERS UCPD TO RETURN
VETERAN JOURNALIST’S NEWS PHOTOGRAPHS
– Photographer Was Newsgathering During UC Berkeley Chancellor House Protest
– Search Warrants Against Journalistic Work Product Expressly Barred By California Law
– UC Sought to Use Images to Investigate and Discipline Students
Oakland – On Friday, June 18, an Alameda County Superior Court judge quashed an illegal search warrant
issued for the unpublished news photographs of veteran journalist David Morse. The court also ordered
the return of all of Morse’s photographs, including any copies made by the University. The court also
ordered the University to declare under oath what agencies received copies of the photographs, if any.
Morse is a 42-year-old journalist who has covered hundreds of demonstrations and other events since 2002.
He was arrested and his camera searched in connection with a protest he was covering at UC Berkeley on
December 11, 2009. The charges were dropped at Morse’s first court appearance, but not before a search
warrant had issued for his unpublished photographs. It is a violation of the Penal Code to secure a search
warrant for any items covered by the California journalist’s shield law.
Although the UCPD police report more than once referenced Morse’s repeated assertions that he was a
journalist, officers omitted this crucial fact in the sworn affidavit they filed with the court in support of the
search warrant. Thus the judge who issued the search warrant had no indication that Morse was reporting
for a news organization at the protest.
The Alameda County District Attorney did not oppose Morse’s motion and indicated that no criminal
investigation is pending. The University opposed the motion, arguing that it had an interest in using the
photographs to investigate students for disciplinary purposes. The University also argued that it could
continue using copies of Morse’s photographs even if the warrant was deemed illegal.
The court rejected these and the University’s other contentions.
Morse was represented by First Amendment Project on a pro bono basis.