The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, whose jurisdiction extends over the western portion of the country including protest-ridden Portland, argued that the injunction from US District Court Judge Michael Simon giving special status to journalists and legal observers special protections against police actions was overly broad and lacked clarity, according to the outlet.
The three-judge panel, two of whom voted to satisfy the federal government’s appeal against Simon’s ruling, wrote in a statement that the decision was “without legal basis.”
They argued that forcing police officers to make split-second decisions during the tumult of protests may bring “irreparable harm” to the functioning of the law enforcement apparatus, the outlet reported.
This effectively puts journalists and legal observers on the same footing with protesters and makes them liable to arrest and responsible for following police orders.
The two majority judges making the decision were appointed by US President Donald Trump, while the dissenting judge, Margaret McKeown, was appointed during Bill Clinton’s presidency, according to Courthouse News.
McKeown disagreed with her colleagues and argued that the federal government failed to demonstrate just how such a ruling harms police duties during protests.
The attorney representing the side that sued for the initial injunction, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Matthew Borden, underscored the journalists’ constitutional right and duty to hold the government accountable.
“Under the First Amendment, press and legal observers must be allowed to document what’s happening at protests without being assaulted, shot, detained, or arrested. The government cannot be held to account if there is no one left to document its actions,” Borden said, as quoted by Courthouse News.
Portland police have resorted to violent dispersion and arrests when the protests turn into riots. Portland’s police association building was subject to multiple arson attempts over the months of unrest.