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Dean Cheley Authors Daily Journal Article on AB 1671’s Unintended Consequences

Partner Dean Cheley authored a Daily Journal article on the signed Assembly Bill 1671, also known as the “Planned Parenthood” bill, which brings criminal and civil penalties against those who secretly record or distribute conversations with health care providers. The article also discussed AB 1671’s negative implications towards the first amendment, which set a dangerous precedent for punishing individuals who record and distribute confidential conversations.

The bill expands the scope of California’s two-party consent wiretapping statute as well as general privacy laws to increase potential liability. Ultimately, the law passed is a misguided response by lawmakers to punish the intrusive undercover video campaign against Planned Parenthood. As Dean writes, AB1671 has unintended consequences that could lead the way to unconstitutional content-based regulation of speech and hinder the public’s ability to learn about newsworthy events.

“We consider the effect on our clients, many of whom are documentary and investigative filmmakers. The law tacks additional criminal and civil penalties on whistleblowers who make secret recordings, even when done in public interest,” wrote Dean. “The bill strictly prohibits people from recording and distributing confidential communications of healthcare providers, but in our information-driven society, the long-established right to report newsworthy information will face increased scrutiny.”

This industry-specific measure, which echoes the criminal penalties for a person who violates California eavesdropping laws, could pave the way for other industries to follow suit, including law enforcement, pharmaceutical producers, and the gas and gun industries.