CASE CLOSED: In a win for the city’s public defenders and civil rights groups representing them, in March, 2020 the Louisiana Supreme Court declined to consider the City of New Orleans’ appeal of a lower court ruling ordering officials to provide the locations of the city’s crime cameras.
In 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit against the City of New Orleans over its refusal to provide a map of the city’s 400 real-time surveillance cameras. Though the cameras themselves are publicly visible, the City of New Orleans has refused to comply with a public records request for a map of their locations.
In 2018, Laura Bixby, a staff attorney for the Orleans Public Defenders, filed a public-records request for a map of all publicly visible real time surveillance cameras. The cameras are used for a variety of purposes by the city, including monitoring street flooding and traffic. The map would assist Bixby in her clients’ defense because they often contain exonerating evidence, just as potentially incriminating evidence is made available to law enforcement. The New Orleans City Attorney’s Office denied the request, claiming that the records are exempt from disclosure.
Calling the denial “arbitrary and capricious,” the lawsuit asserts that the city’s refusal to turn over the records violates Louisiana’s public records law and asks the court to order the city to produce the requested records. “The City has no interest, compelling or otherwise, in keeping secret the location of cameras that not only publicly visible but overt, conspicuous, and readily evident,” the complaint reads.