Judge orders UC-Berkeley police to return photos to journalist

Photojournalist David Morse will be receiving photos confiscated from him by the police after a judge ruled last week that University of California-Berkeley police who searched his camera in December did so illegally.

Morse was covering a demonstration outside of the chancellor’s residence for the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center, or Indybay, when law enforcement officials arrested him. Alameda County Superior Judge Yolanda Northridge’s Friday ruling invalidated the search warrant used by the UC-Berkeley police to confiscate Morse’s photos. Northridge also ordered the university to return all photos to Morse.

This ruling comes as the only possible conclusion in a state where journalists are protected by a shield law from subpoenas seeking unpublished information obtained while documenting a news event. The judge also disregarded the university’s contention that police could doubt Morse’s claim to be a journalist because of an expired press pass. Apparently the First Amendment, as well as the California shield law, respects a journalist when it sees one- expired press pass or not.