Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001) (full-text).
Factual Background Edit
Bartnicki was a union negotiator whose telephone conversations with the union’s president were surreptitiously intercepted and recorded while they were discussion negotiation of a teachers’ contract. During the conversation, the possibility of using violence against school board members was mentioned. After the teachers’ contract was signed, the unknown wiretapper secretly supplied Yocum, a critic of the union’s position, with a copy of the tape. Yocum in turn played it for members of the school board and turned it over to Vopper, a radio talk show host, who played it on his show. Other stations and media outlets published the contents as well.
Supreme Court Proceedings Edit
Bartnicki sued Vopper and Yocum for use and disclosure in violation of sections 18 U.S.C. §§2511(1)(c) and 2511(1)(d). Vopper and Yocum offered a free speech defense which the Supreme Court accepted. The Court held that the First Amendment right to free speech bars the application of Section 2511(1)(c) to the disclosure of illegally intercepted, but lawfully acquired, communications dealing with a matter of unusual public concern.